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October 2000 Vol. 26, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Two More Reasons Not to Feed the Fish

from the October, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

REASON ONE: A fish bite has infected a human with a marine bacterium not previously known to cause human disease, reports New Scientist magazine.

The victim, a 55-year-old woman, was diving in the Maldives when a fish, which she couldn’t identify, bit her on the ankle. The infection caused serious swelling, requiring her to undertake a regimen of intravenous antibiotics until she recovered fully.

The bacteria couldn’t be identified until DNA tests discovered Halomonas venusta. Says a microbiologist from the University of Tasmania, “it’s an example of how exotic pathogens can do unexpected things. She was lucky because this organism is comparatively harmless.” (See the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Vol. 37, p. 3123.)

REASON TWO: A severe shark bite on a Florida fish-feeding expedition came to light the day after the commission hearing, though the victim, Andrea Nani, was attacked on July 22. She told Undercurrent that she was aboard a commercial snorkel boat at a nurse shark feeding area in Big Pine Key. She said the charter captain told her family that nurse sharks were “harmless and had no teeth.” They threw food scraps in the water to attract the sharks and told their customers to go snorkel. Within seconds of entering the water, Ms. Nani was attacked by a five-foot nurse shark that wouldn’t let go of her leg. Her husband jumped in the water to free her. She said the captain told her she had a “superficial” wound and wanted to finish cooking dinner for the people on board before taking her to shore. She arrived on shore ninety minutes later, and the boat operator had not called ahead for medical assistance. It took another hour to get to a hospital, where medical personnel told her that air evacuation would have helped them save some flesh. I talked to her in September in Holy Cross Hospital, where she had been admitted for several days for further treatment. She says she will sue both the operator and the state of Florida, an action that would most likely affect deliberation on shark feeding.

- Ben Davison

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