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People who enjoy a nice piece of fish have been warned to be careful how they handle it in a market, and to clean any wounds as soon as possible, following reports that a Thai man died after pricking his hand on a fish bone.
Authorities have been careful not to say where this happened (though it was not in Phuket) but reports of the death from necrotising fasciitis – so-called “flesh-eating” bacterial infection – have been circulating in Thai news media for some days.
Although the wound was treated by a doctor he collapsed , by which time the bacteria had infected his blood and it was too late to save him.
Doctors who examined him believe that he was infected by a form of Aeromonas bacteria, some of which can cause tissue to dissolve – “flesh eating”.
Ratthanakorn Panduang, epidemiology specialist at Vachira Phuket Hospital told The Phuket News, “We have had no reports of such infections recently in the population of Phuket.
“We did have a case some time ago of a person who was infected after being jabbed by a bone from an anabas fish (a type of perch). The finger became very inflamed and we had to amputate it.
“The [severity of the] infection depends on the victim’s health and on any vaccines they may have had.”
Doctor Sopon Metthanon, Director of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) in Bangkok, said the DDC had been notified of the death from necrotising fasciitis.
He explained,“If this kind of bacteria gets into the circulatory system then it can cause shock and death within 48 hours, particularly in people who are in weak health or have diabetes.”
Dr Opart Kankawinpong, Director in Chief of the DDC, pointed out, “Lots of bacteria in the environment can cause infections in muscles or flesh.”
He added that cases of necrotising fasciitis are very rare, and are therefore not something that should cause great alarm.
The DDC database describes the signs and symptoms: fever, inflammation of the wound with serious pain, and darkening of the flesh around the wound. Treatment consists of antibiotics, though in serious cases flesh may have to be cut away.
The lesson, health officials advise, is to clean any wound as soon as possible, and to see a doctor if there is swelling, inflammation or fever.
Like all fresh, uncooked food, fish carry bacteria of many kinds, but eating them is safe as long as the fish is well cooked.