The dangers of eating raw fish

Raw fish, such as sushi, and other uncooked seafood may be delicious, but they also may be dangerous -- even...

Posted: Aug 31, 2018 1:02 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 1:03 PM

Raw fish, such as sushi, and other uncooked seafood may be delicious, but they also may be dangerous -- even life-threatening -- if prepared inexpertly.

Case in point: A 71-year old man in South Korea developed an infection after eating raw seafood, and resulting complications required an amputation of his forearm, according to a report published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Consumer products

Food and drink

Food products

Government organizations - US

Health and medical

Kinds of foods and beverages

Public health

Seafood

US Department of Health and Human Services

US federal departments and agencies

Bacteria

Continents and regions

Life forms

Microscopic life

North America

The Americas

United States

Diseases and disorders

Foodborne illness

Gastrointestinal disorders

The man had a history of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and he was undergoing dialysis for end-stage renal (kidney) disease. The illness developed within 12 hours of his meal and led to fever and excruciating pain in his left hand.

After two days of suffering, he visited the emergency room at Chonbuk National University Hospital in Jeonju, South Korea.

By the time he reached the hospital, a blood-filled cavity measuring 3.5 by 4.5 centimeters (about 1.5 by 2 inches) had developed on the palm of his left hand, while on the top of his hand and forearm, there was a swelling cavity under the skin.

When his doctors performed urgent surgery, they isolated Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium commonly found in coastal ocean water, as the cause of his infection.

Vibrio vulnificus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that these bacteria cause 205 infections each year nationwide. Some cases require amputations, and 15% to 30% of cases are fatal, according to the agency.

After surgery, the man received two powerful antibiotics intravenously. However, the drugs did not keep his skin lesions from worsening, and doctors performed an amputation of his left forearm 25 days after his arrival at the ER.

"The patient did well after the surgery and was discharged home," the authors of his case report concluded.

Vibrio vulnificus -- sometimes incorrectly referred to as "flesh-eating bacteria" -- is one of a family of 12 bacterial species that cause sickness in humans. Symptoms of these infections can include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Generally, these infections do not require treatment, and severe illness is rare, according to the CDC.

About 80% of infections happen between May and October, when coastal waters are warmest, and mostly they result from eating infected shellfish, with oysters a common culprit. Still, you can also become infected if bacteria in the water enter an open wound or cut, the CDC says.

Although the South Korean patient's amputation certainly ranks among the most hair-raising possibilities that can occur after you eat raw fish, other dangers lurk in raw or poorly cooked meals, as well.

Parasites

The growing popularity of sushi and other raw or undercooked fish and seafood dishes in Western countries has led to an increase in illness caused by anisakid nematodes (worms), according to a study published last year in BMJ Case Reports.

Anisakiasis results from eating fish or seafood contaminated with that parasite.

When the worms invade the stomach wall or intestines, the result is gastrointestinal pain, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC. Some people develop complications, including digestive bleeding, bowel obstruction and peritonitis (an inflammation of the inner wall of the abdomen). Other people may experience an allergic reaction, including swelling, skin rash or even anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

Anisakiasis cannot be transmitted from one person to another and is most common in Japan, where sushi is king. Japan sees, roughly, 3,000 cases annually, according to the authors of the case study.

However, in recent years, other parts of the globe have begun to see a rise in anisakiasis illness, according to the CDC, though the agency estimates that only a case or two are reported in the US each year.

Salmonella

Raw or undercooked fish may also harbor the most common food-poisoning bacteria, Salmonella, which causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the US every year, according to the CDC. Food is the source of most of these illnesses. Although raw or undercooked fish is less likely to cause a salmonella infection than other foods, including chicken and beef, it still may carry these bacteria.

Symptoms of diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps usually develop within 72 hours after infection, and illness generally lasts four to seven days. Though most people recover from a salmonella infection without treatment, some patients experience such severe diarrhea that they need to be hospitalized.

To reduce the risk of illness caused by eating fish, the CDC recommends not eating raw or undercooked fish or squid. When broiling, boiling or cooking seafood, an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit (about 63 degrees Celsius) needs to be reached to kill anything dangerous lurking beneath the skin.

West Lafayette
Broken Clouds
40° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 33°
Kokomo
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 31°
Rensselaer
Overcast
36° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 30°
Fowler
Overcast
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 30°
Williamsport
Broken Clouds
40° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 33°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
38° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 33°
Frankfort
Overcast
39° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 32°
Delphi
Overcast
40° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 32°
Monticello
Overcast
40° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 32°
Logansport
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 37°
Fair Weather Continues
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350970

Reported Deaths: 5973
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion47763893
Lake30007480
Allen20256333
Elkhart18510245
St. Joseph18319243
Hamilton14971181
Vanderburgh10862134
Tippecanoe991133
Porter915392
Johnson7484177
Hendricks7143163
Vigo6580105
Monroe591453
Madison5732125
Clark564884
Delaware5434108
LaPorte5171104
Kosciusko501846
Howard400578
Bartholomew367565
Warrick360574
Wayne355192
Floyd348878
Marshall333949
Cass319132
Grant315652
Hancock307762
Noble284750
Boone274656
Henry272141
Dubois262934
Jackson255237
Morgan251845
Dearborn249733
Gibson217033
Shelby212861
Knox207722
DeKalb204438
Clinton202224
Lawrence200549
Wabash190623
Miami188118
Adams187424
Daviess174246
Montgomery167029
Jasper165015
Ripley164521
Fayette163837
Steuben163016
Harrison162024
LaGrange156533
Whitley156516
Huntington147211
White147024
Putnam142530
Wells142533
Decatur141846
Randolph139524
Clay138026
Jefferson137618
Posey133620
Scott124024
Greene117954
Jay113315
Sullivan109018
Jennings102415
Starke100828
Spencer9578
Fulton94219
Fountain9228
Perry88021
Washington8789
Franklin79528
Carroll79313
Orange74428
Vermillion72810
Owen71410
Parke6796
Tipton66527
Blackford62715
Rush6278
Newton62113
Pike57421
Pulaski48020
Benton4423
Brown3995
Martin3896
Crawford3421
Union2972
Switzerland2765
Warren2763
Ohio2477
Unassigned0285

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events