|Big Mouth Buffalo Fish - Credit Jim Negus|
Health officials in Cook County and Chicago have reported two people who ate the buffalo fish were seen at hospitals for suspected cases of Haff disease.
First described in 1924, cases were observed in humans, birds, and cats, usually in the summer and fall, and a link was made to fish consumption. In 1997, six cases of Haff disease were reported in California and Missouri, following the consumption of buffalo fish. In July and August 2010, dozens of people contracted Haff disease after eating Procambarus clarkii in Nanjing, China.
|Procambarus clarkii - Credit Duloup|
Interestingly, the nature of the toxin that causes Haff disease is unclear. While cooking food to the proper temperature will kill bacteria, cooking will not eliminate this toxin, and the fish will still be unsafe for eating.
Possibilities for the toxin include a hexane-soluble (non-polar lipid) substance that induced similar symptoms in mice, palytoxin, or a toxin with thiaminase activity.
Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology and currently is a Public Health Laboratorian.
Hire Lance as a consultant using Zintro.