(Sept 2015) … Recently a post was put up on a Facebook page and rapidly circulated about a man who died after cutting himself with a fillet knife while cleaning a triggerfish in Ocean City Maryland. It took less than 36 hours for this infection to shut down his kidneys and heart. Names have been left out of this article. This is just a heads up to be careful handling any fish. The bacteria that attacked his system was the flesh eating bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus, and it can be deadly for 50% of people infected when in the bloodstream. I have seen some nasty infections over the years and from the smallest cuts or fish bites. Bluefish in particular can cause a nasty infection from a bite. Even a small puncture wound from a fish’s dorsal spine can be deadly in some cases.
If you are injured handling or cleaning a fish it is a good idea to immediately seek medical attention. You certainly need to treat it right away with antibiotics and topical cremes. If you have a serious case find an infectious disease specialist immediately. In most fish poisoning cases there is only a small infection, but that depends on the fish you are handling and the bacteria involved. These triggerfish are tropical and many warm water fish have all kinds of bacteria on their slime coats.
We are seeing a great deal of tropical fish in our waters. Please be careful when handling these fish and any fish for that matter. I spoke with Joe at Lewes Harbor Marina, and he has seen some cases of fish poisoning, but has never experienced any himself. Joe cleans at least a thousand fish every weekend in the busy season. Just a reminder to be careful when handling fish, especially the tropicals we see this time of year, you just never know.