Hongkongers Catch Rare Muscular Disease After Eating Crayfish From China

After eating crayfish from mainland China, two Hongkongers acquired a rare and painful muscular condition that carried potentially fatal complications.

Reported by the Centre for Health Protection, the first case involved a 30-year-old woman who developed severe muscle pain in the back, chest, shoulder and thigh five hours after consuming crayfish at home on September 4, according to South China Morning Post. She was hospitalized the following day.

The second case involved a 55-year-old woman who developed severe muscle pain in the arms, legs and shoulder, four hours after consuming crayfish at a restaurant on August 20. She was also hospitalized the next day.

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Both patients were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood. Known causes include genetic muscle diseases, trauma or injury, extreme body temperatures, severe dehydration, low phosphate levels and the use of cocaine, amphetamines, heroin or PCP, among others. Bacterial and viral infections are also seen as risk factors.

An unidentified, heat-stable toxin is believed to have accumulated in the crayfish, leading to the infection of both Hongkongers. The condition is reportedly uncommon in the city.

When left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can cause damage to the kidneys, resulting to complications such as harmful chemical imbalances, low blood pressure and renal failure.

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Fortunately, both patients were discharged following prompt intervention.

The public is advised to clean crayfish thoroughly before cooking. Eating too much and eating its internal organs are discouraged. Of course, it could also be where the crayfish are being fished from that is to blame.

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