By Mississippi State Dept. of Health
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. They have since recovered. The fish in question came from the Yazoo River, but officials caution buffalo from any waters may carry the toxin. Cooking the fish has no impact on the likelihood of contracting the disease.
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. Individuals who develop the symptoms after the consumption of buffalo fish should seek immediate medical care.