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Health Unit Continues Investigation into Skin Infection

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is continuing its investigation into an unusual skin infection after preliminary laboratory results indicate the infections are being caused by Mycobacterium marinum (M marinum).

M marinum is a slow growing mycobacterium found in salt water and fresh water. M marinum infections produce red, painful sores on hands and arms. M marinum is most commonly found among aquarium cleaners, fishermen and seafood handlers but, it has also been associated with handling raw fish/seafood during food preparation.

The HKPR District Health Unit has investigated five of six cases of the infection with people from the Campbellford area, and all seem to be associated with handling shrimp grown at a local shrimp farm. The Health Unit is working with the shrimp farmer and local grocery store that sells the shrimp to provide information to customers to ensure they wear waterproof gloves when handling the raw shrimp and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.

There is no known risk of M marinum infection from eating fish or seafood and it cannot be spread from person-to-person.

“The shrimp farmer has been extremely co-operative during this investigation and is working closely with the Health Unit to determine what, if any, steps can be taken to eliminate this naturally occurring bacterium from the shrimp and to provide public education materials on safe practices to use when handling the raw shrimp,” says Anne Marie Holt, Director, Communicable Disease Control, Epidemiology and Evaluation, for the HKPR District Health Unit.

Anyone who may have developed red, painful sores on their hands and arms after handling raw shrimp is asked to contact the HKPR District Health Unit and their health care provider for assessment and treatment. The Health Unit is also working with neighbouring health units in this investigation.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Anne Marie Holt, Director, Communicable Disease Control, Evaluation and Epidemiology, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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