Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Wilderness: Fish-Handler's Disease

    Fish-Handler's Disease Overview

    Fish-handler's disease occurs when cuts or scrapes in the skin become infected with the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. Handling and preparing fish and shellfish can create small cuts and scrapes in the skin where bacteria may enter. Developing fish-handler's disease requires deliberate contact with fish, particularly lobster and other shellfish. Fish-handler's disease occurs worldwide wherever fish and shellfish are handled.

    Fish-Handler's Disease Symptoms

    • The disease generally develops 2-7 days after injury to the skin and subsequent bacterial infection.
    • A sharply defined, red-purple circular area appears and surrounds the puncture.
    • The area of injury increases in diameter by about one-half inch per day.
    • Pain, burning, itching, and swelling at the infection site; joint stiffness; and lymph node swelling accompany the infection.

    Fish-Handler's Disease Treatment

    All wounds require immediate cleansing with fresh tap water. Gently scrub the wound with soap and water to remove any foreign material.

    After cleansing, a topical antibiotic ointment (for example, bacitracin) should be applied 3-4 times per day.

    Oral antibiotics are often prescribed to treat the infection. Prior to starting an antibiotic, be sure to tell the doctor about any drug allergies. Continue antibiotics for at least 5 days after all signs of infection have cleared. Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, while taking these antibiotics because certain antibiotics may cause sensitivity to the sun.

    Pain may be relieved with 1-2 tablets of acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 4 hours or 1-2 tablets of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) every 6-8 hours.

    When to Seek Medical Care

    Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.

    Synonyms and Keywords

    fish-handler's disease, fish handler's disease,fish handler disease, fish, lobster, bacterial infection, fish poisoning, fish hand

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 06, 2014

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.