Health Department: Buffalo fish linked to disease

July 10, 2013


The Mississippi State Department of Health is confirming three newly diagnosed cases of Haff disease, a rare but serious illness caused by an unidentified toxin in buffalo fish that can cause a condition called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a muscle injury syndrome that causes pain, stiffness and rarely, kidney damage.

The three Mississippi cases are members of one family and are linked to the consumption of cooked buffalo fish harvested in Mississippi waters.

Smallmouth buffalo fish.

Smallmouth buffalo fish.

While these are Mississippi’s first recorded cases, Haff disease has previously been associated with the consumption of buffalo fish in the United States. Since 1984, approximately 30 sporadic cases have been reported. Most cases occur in the summer months. So far, there have been no reported deaths linked to the disease in Mississippi or the U.S.

Symptoms, which typically occur within 12 hours of consuming the fish, include muscle weakness and pain, dry mouth, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and dark urine. Intravenous fluids and other treatments can help resolve symptoms. Severe symptoms typically resolve quickly although some patients complain of fatigue for months following acute stages of the illness.

The Mississippi State Department of Health is advising the public that the consumption of buffalo fish has been associated with a small number of Haff disease cases. Cooking buffalo fish does not reduce the risk of disease. Many Mississippians consume buffalo fish on a routine basis without illness. However, individuals who develop the above symptoms after the consumption of buffalo fish harvested in Mississippi or nearby waters (either caught or purchased at a retail establishment or restaurant) should seek immediate medical care.

Source: Mississippi Department of Health


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About Stephen McDill

Stephen McDill joined the Mississippi Business Journal in 2008 after working in radio and television. He is a graduate of Belhaven University and has won awards for his writing and photojournalism from the Associated Press and Mississippi Press Association.

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