Pfiesteria in Maryland: preliminary epidemiologic findings.

J. E. Golub, D. T. Haselow, J. C. Hageman, A. S. Lopez, D. W. Oldach, L. M. Grattan, T. M. Perl

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13 Scopus citations


In the fall of 1996, fish kills in Maryland rivers were attributed to the dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria piscicida. After a group of researchers established a potential link between exposure to Pfiesteria and an illness causing memory problems, state health authorities closed a portion of the Pocomoke River. To determine the extent of illness, the range of symptoms, potential risk factors for disease, and to provide information to concerned citizens, a toll-free hotline was created. All symptomatic persons who called the toll-free number were administered a standardized questionnaire. Persons who had been exposed to Pfiesteria or Pfiesteria-laden waters were more likely to have respiratory, neurologic, dermatologic, and gastrointestinal problems than those persons without exposure. Among the persons calling the hotline, many had extensive neuropsychologic testing. Of the neuropsychologic test battery, low scores on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), a standardized measure of learning and memory, best characterized illness related to Pfiesteria exposure. Patients with low RAVLT scores were more likely to have neurologic symptoms and skin lesions than control subjects. Low RAVLT scores were associated with fishing (OR, 9.00, 95% CI, 106, 409.87), catching fish with lesions (OR, 6.17, 95% CI 1.27, 32.10), and handling fish with lesions (OR, 5.34, 95% CI, 1.05, 29.92), but not with consumption of seafood. While preliminary, these results do suggest that some risk factors for Pfiesteria-related illness may be easy to modify and used to prevent unnecessary human exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-143
Number of pages7
JournalMaryland medical journal (Baltimore, Md. : 1985)
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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