There's a Skin Infection New Yorkers are Catching From Fish

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A fish market in Chinatown.

Thirty people who handled fish from Chinese markets in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan contracted skin lesions. 

Health officials are warning New Yorkers handling raw seafood to wear waterproof gloves to combat infection with a rare bacteria known as Mycobacterium marinum, or M. marinum.

The waterborne bug is transmitted from contaminated live or raw seafood through a break in the skin. Symptoms include red, tender lumps or swelling under the skin of the hands or arms — some of those infected develop swelling or pain in their hands or arms and have difficulty moving their fingers. If the infection is deep enough, surgery may be needed.

But don't worry: your seafood is still safe to eat. Health officials say M. bacterium can not be contracted from eating raw or cooked seafood, even if it's infected — and M. marinum does not spread from person to person.

The Health Department first learned of the outbreak from doctors in the Chinese community.They are currently investigating how the fish came to be infected.

None of the patients have had to go to the hospital. Some of them initially tried to treat the lesions with traditional Chinese medicine or incorrect antibiotics. Only a few specific antibiotics can cure infection with M. marinum, and early treatment is essential to preventing surgical intervention later.