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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
'Fish handler's disease' on rise in Md.

By Gretchen Parker
Associated Press ? April 27, 2004


CLAIBORNE, Md. ? Doctors believe rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay are carrying Mycobacterium marinum, a bacterium that watermen call "fish handler's disease."

One stricken fisherman saw his hand swell to the size of a pork chop. The lump soon spread to his wrist, and his elbow began to stiffen.

With the start of rockfish season April 17 came little publicity about the disease, which first was documented by Maryland state scientists in 1998. They now estimate it has spread to 50 percent of rockfish in some areas of the bay. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science, however, estimates 76 percent of rockfish baywide are infected.

"I think there is a clear, human health concern that hundreds of people will be out fishing for rockfish at the start of the season, and very few are aware there is a prevalent disease with these fish," said Howard R. Ernst, a Naval Academy professor and author of "Chesapeake Bay Blues," a book published last year that is critical of the state's regulation of bay pollution.

This week, Desmond Kahn, an environmental scientist for Delaware's fisheries division, will present data to a conference of biologists showing the death rate of rockfish due to natural causes in the bay is three times what it was in 1997. Alternative data show a death rate that is slightly lower, he said.

One reason for the rise could be the spread of the mycobacterium, Kahn said, which is fatal to fish but not harmful to humans if eaten.

"That's not confirmed. But the data is convincing to me that survival (of rockfish) has declined," Kahn said.

Maryland scientists downplay the prevalence of the bacteria in the official state fish, which are touted as one of the Chesapeake Bay's few success stories. The state instituted a rockfish ban in 1985 after a collapse in the bay population. By the time the moratorium was lifted in 1990, the population had recovered.

Now, the start of rockfish season brings recreational fishermen to the boat ramps in swarms.

Last year brought the bay's highest rockfish catch since 1996, said Martin Gary, a DNR fisheries ecologist. There are an estimated 60 million of the popular fish from Nova Scotia to northern Florida.

Mycobacterium is a threat, Gary said, but it "isn't showing up in any way, shape or form that shows we're losing fish."

Gary says fish handler's disease suffers an exaggerated reputation because several infections that aren't mycobacteriosis get lumped together as fish handler's disease. The state doesn't keep records of how many people catch it, but surgeons at the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore say they see two to three new cases every month.

"There does seem to be a disproportionate number of people who live on the Chesapeake Bay who contract it," said James Higgins, a surgeon at the center, which is part of The Union Memorial Hospital. "This does seem to be a hotspot for it."

Gary points out that just one DNR rockfish researcher has ever contracted the disease. DNR's 10 striped bass researchers tag the fish seven months a year and handle more than 10,000 of them. They wear chain-mail gloves, which don't protect from spiny barbs on the fish.

The bacteria are also carried by crabs, oysters and can even be transmitted if a fisherman gets scratched or stabbed by a barnacle lying in infected water. By dipping their hands in a bucket of fresh water mixed with antibacterial dish soap, fishermen can ward off some infection, Gary said.

State officials have long been reluctant to publicize fish handler's disease, said James Price, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation. Price said he fears that if the disease isn't addressed, the rockfish resurgence will be short-lived.

He first contacted DNR in 1996 to report that fishermen were noticing more skinny rockfish, some of which were covered with red sores and lesions.

DNR scientists have since found that the red rashes seen on rockfish are caused by a different infection still being studied.

"There's quite a bit of politics here," said Victor Crecco, supervisor of research in Connecticut's Marine Fisheries Division. "Politically, they feel very uncomfortable about this," he said of Maryland natural resources officials.

Crecco devised the formula that found the increase in Chesapeake Bay rockfish deaths.

But a minority of scientists and bay advocates are becoming more vocal about the disease, which becomes more prevalent in the summer and fall, when the food supply for rockfish becomes more scarce and heat degrades the bay's water quality. Those conditions stress rockfish, making them more susceptible to the disease.
 

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My hands are breaking out in a bad rash when I handle bass and I am exposed to the sun. Does this count?
 

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"There's quite a bit of politics here," said Victor Crecco, supervisor of research in Connecticut's Marine Fisheries Division. "Politically, they feel very uncomfortable about this," he said of Maryland natural resources officials.


THAT'S BECAUSE OF ALL THE PIG FARMERS AND CHICKEN FARMERS who don't make sure that when there is a downpour all their chit don't overflow into the river. Think about that when you have your chicken and ribs b-b-q this summer.....I won't. ;)
 

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I gotta get out and catch some first! :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Originally posted by Mike Grabbe:
I gotta get out and catch some first! :(
Mike, Hang In There Buddy,, I hope the Rehab
is going well..Plenty of Fish Out There For
You when you get back.Take Care.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

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After a bad infection last year I have been fishing more often using latex gloves and I will continue after this. That infection was very painfull and tooks a couple weeks to get over and I caught it early. I picked up a couple boxes of the Purple Nitrile and they hold up pretty well.

They also come in handy when cleaning fish to keep away them smelly hands. And when fishing the sods at night in the summer when the bugs are bad they are a gift from God!
 

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A friend of mine got stuck by a spine on a sea robin. He spent 3 weeks in the hospital. His hand swelled up to twice it's size. He eventually had to have skin grafted onto his hand to replace the infected removed skin. Could this be the same thing the bass carry? If so, don't get cut when handeling them.
 

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Originally posted by candyman:

THAT'S BECAUSE OF ALL THE PIG FARMERS AND CHICKEN FARMERS who don't make sure that when there is a downpour all their chit don't overflow into the river.
Candyman,

I'm of the same belief...I even think thats the reason the D-bay is so hot...
 

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a few years while cleaning tuna after an offshore tri

i cut myself, after four weeks of antibiotics and pretty much unable to work, i had to have surgery to remove an abseis{sp} under my arm

i was taking the cipro's etc. i promise , you don't want any type of infection like that

the beav
 

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My dad caught it from a crab trap in Va. Poked his thumb and in two days he coulded use it. Three days it was three times normal size. They had to drill a hole right through his nail to drain the infection. Thought he was going to loose his arm. Doc's in Baltimore said keep a bottle of poroxide with you and rinse your hands after every trip. They said early use of poroxide usual halts the infection before it gets into your system! Get'em Wet! Pig
 

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just thought i reply i contacted it back in the early 90s it is very bad if not cought early mine was not it was finally cought after 4 operations on my knee and they were able to get it to grow in a culture dish so be careful
 
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