Man Hospitalized With Rare Condition After Eating Red Snapper

A man was hospitalized from a condition caused by a rare disease after eating fried red snapper at a Connecticut shoreline restaurant, an official with Ledge Light Health District said.

The 36-year-old man was admitted to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London for about three weeks after consuming the contaminated fish in April, said Russ Melmed, epidemiologist and supervisor of health education and community outreach for Ledge Light.

Melmed said two day after eating the red snapper, the man suffered from Rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can be caused by Haff disease. The condition causes a breakdown of skeletal muscle and can damage the kidneys, Melmed said.

Haff disease is so rare, that Melmed said experts are still trying to identify the specific toxin that's suspected of causing Haff disease.

“It’s believed that it's a toxin because the cases of Haff disease are always associated with somebody who's eaten cooked fish. So, the cooking process kills bacteria, kills viruses — the things that normally cause you to become ill," Melmed said. 

Melmed would not identify the restaurant nor the man, who was on dialysis at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, according to Melmed. That patient is no longer at the hospital, confirmed hospital spokesperson Michael O’Farrell.

O'Farrell said seeing cases linked to Haff disease are "incredibly rare".

Maura Downes, director of communications for the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), said there have only been around 30 cases of Haff disease in the United States.

The DPH communications director would not comment on the recent case in Connecticut but said Haff disease is believed to occur when fish is not stored at the proper temperature on the boat or on the dock. The restaurant would not be at the fault for Haff disease.

Ledge Light Health District is the local health department for East Lyme, Groton, New London, Old Lyme, Stonington, Ledyard and Waterford.

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