Haff disease is a rare syndrome of unexplained myalgia and rhabdomyolysis occurring within 24 h of consumption of certain types of cooked freshwater fish or crustacean. It is caused by a yet unidentified heat-stable toxin. In the present review of published case studies and official press releases, the main objective is to report the emergence and epidemiology of Haff disease in China. Haff disease first occurred in Beijing in 2000 and in Lianzhou and Liannan, Guangdong Province in 2009. Subsequent outbreaks mostly occurred in the Jiangsu Province—Nanjing, Yangzhou, Huai’an, and Yancheng. Isolated outbreaks occurred in other cities since 2010—Shijiazhuang, Yueyang, Shanghai, Wuhu, Baoding, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong (imported cases from Shenzhen). Outbreaks occurred predominately in the summer. Crayfish accounted for almost all the outbreaks. Two large outbreaks occurred in Lianzhou and Liannan in 2009 (n
= 54) after eating pomfrets and in Nanjing in 2010 (n
= 42) after eating crayfish. Other reports or outbreaks involved only 1–9 subjects (median 2 subjects). Variability in individual susceptibility and attack rates were noted, with many subjects remaining asymptomatic despite sharing the same seafood meal as the index cases. Adults were predominately involved. Symptoms occurred within 3–20 h of seafood ingestion, including myalgia, weakness, and, less frequently, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Myalgia and muscle weakness should normally subside within 2–3 days. Serum creatine phosphokinase became normal within 5–6 days. Abnormal renal function was uncommon. Serious complications (renal failure, multi-organ failure, and prolonged myopathy) and death were rare. In any subjects with unexplained myalgia and rhabdomyolysis, seafood consumption should be included in the history. All suspected cases of Haff disease, including milder presentations, should be reported to public health authorities.
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