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April 1957

Seal Finger: The Report of an Occupational Disease Rare in the United States

Author Affiliations

Clayton, Mo.

From the Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

AMA Arch Derm. 1957;75(4):559-561. doi:10.1001/archderm.1957.01550160085010

Seal finger is a subacute, severely painful, localized infection occurring in the fingers of sealers. It is not uncommon in the Scandinavian countries, where it is known as Spekkfinger (blubber finger) and where, according to Candolin,1 it has been periodically described in medical literature since 1907. The disease occurs so rarely in this part of the world that it has been described in the literature of this country on only one occasion.2 Because of its rarity, especially in Midwestern United States, the report of the following case, which was discovered in St. Louis, seems justified.

The infection occurs exclusively in men who slaughter or skin seals. Only the tissue of the finger or occasionally of the hand is involved. Most authorities agree that the infecting agent does not enter unbroken skin, pointing out that all carefully documented cases have a history of preceding injury to the skin of the diseased part. In spite of several efforts to identify the etiological organism responsible for the condition, it remains unknown.