Two things you never want to see linked: "outbreak" and "rare skin infection." Unfortunately, that's apparently the case in New York City, where some 30 people who bought seafood in Chinatown markets over the last six months have found themselves battling "Mycobacterium marinum." The city's Health Department made the announcement yesterday, and painted a picture of the bacteria and how it operates: It enters the body via open wounds (so wearing gloves at home while prepping dinner is apparently a good preventative measure, notes the DOH) and causes bumps to appear under the skin; that morphs into a wound that won't heal.
Symptoms can take weeks to show, and while the infection can turn serious and even require surgery, it's easily fixable with a course of antibiotics. A not-so-appetizing assurance from the DOH: Any seafood that may be behind the infection is safe to eat. The New York Times reports the outbreak came to light after a Chinatown hand surgeon last week contacted the health department after seeing 15 patients with the infection, compared to a previous tally of about one patient a year; he believes most were infected after puncturing their skin with a fish bone. The city's deputy commissioner for disease control noted that the bacterium is most commonly seen in fish and aquariums, not humans. (Read more infection stories.)