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Fish-Handler's Disease (cont.)


Fish-Handler's Disease Symptoms and Signs

Patient Comments

Symptoms for fish-handler's disease caused by Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and other species are as follows:

  • The disease generally develops two to seven days after injury to the skin and subsequent bacterial infection.
  • A sharply defined, red-purple circular area appears and surrounds the puncture; the center usually fades, and occasionally a vesicle (blister-like lesion) may appear.
  • The area of injury increases in diameter by about ½ inch per day.
  • Joint stiffness, lymph node swelling, and pain, burning, itching, and swelling at the infection site may accompany the infection.
  • Rarely, the disease may progress to produce sepsis (infection of the bloodstream) and endocarditis (infection of the heart valves).

Symptoms for fish-handler's disease caused by Mycobacterium species are as follows:

  • The disease generally develops about two to four weeks after exposure, although up to nine months postexposure has been reported.
  • Skin lesions are often multiple and linear but can be single.
  • Lesions can appear as nodules, abscesses, or ulcers, with skin color changes, and develop slowly (months).
  • Joint pain, lymph node swelling, and tendonitis may develop.
  • Rarely, the disease may progress to sepsis (infection of the bloodstream).

When to Seek Medical Care for Fish Handler's Disease

  • If a person develops any skin lesions (either painful or not) after handling fish or other aquatic organisms, or after swimming, boating, or cleaning fish tanks or aquariums, they should seek medical care; those with a suppressed immune system should immediately contact their doctor.
  • Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications so that the appropriate antibiotic is given to treat the specific bacterial cause of the disease.

Diagnosis of Fish-Handler's Disease

Diagnosis of the cause of an individual's fish-handler's disease is done by culturing the bacteria from the lesions or by PCR tests (tests that identify the genetic material of bacteria or other organisms) specific for the bacterial type involved.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2016

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