Cleaning Fish is Risky Business


cleaning-fishEvery year during the Pesach and Rosh Hashanah holiday seasons, Ziv Medical Center in Tzfas treats an increased number of patients with infections in their fingers and hands as a result of untrained handling and cleaning of fish. This is especially common in preparation for Pesach, when people try to do more things on their own. After the bacteria enters the body it causes an infection accompanied by fever.Doctors say if treatment is not begun right away the infection can spread throughout the body, including serious harm to the kidneys and liver, and in rare cases can lead to gangrene and even death.

A study that tracked health problems related to cleaning fish during the past eight years in Israel found that 3 percent were infected by tilapia (“amnon” or “musht”), 10 percent by carp or mullet (“buri”) and the rest by comber, trout and other types of fish. The study also reveals men come to the emergency room after an average of just two days, while women typically wait four days.

Dr. Gad Ben Dror, an expert on infectious diseases at the Ziv Medical Center, warns that “getting pricked by the fins, scales or bones can cause a bacterial infection to enter the finger and sometimes lead to the rapid development of an infection throughout the hand. Vibrio bacteria, and the most common among them is Vibrio vulnificus, develop an infection, and within a few hours one can discern swelling in the affected finger, accompanied by pain, local redness and edema. Later the infection process can spread to the palm and to other fingers, and in rare cases even to the arm up to the elbow or the shoulder. Based on experience acquired over the years in cases of this kind most of the people [infected] were in contact with fish – fish farmers at fish pools, fish stores or people who buy fish at stores or the shuk and decided to clean them by themselves.”

{G. Lazer-Deiah veDibur/ Newscenter}