(EnviroNews World News) — Fresno, California — On January 9, 2018, on This Won’t Hurt a Bit, Dr. Kenny Bahn told the podcast about a man from Fresno, California, who showed up in his emergency room with a five-and-a-half-foot-long tapeworm wrapped around a toilet paper roll. He went to the bathroom with stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea, when he found something hanging out of his anus.
“He says, ‘I look down, and [it looks] like there’s a piece of intestine hanging out of me,’ and you know what’s racing through his mind is he thinks he’s dying because he’s having bloody diarrhea,” said Bahn. “He is scared to death that he’s got something terrible. So, he’s like ‘oh my goodness my guts are coming out from me.’ So, he grabs it, and he pulls on it, and it keeps coming out… and what is this long piece of entrail and he picks it up and looks at it, and what does it do? It starts moving.”
The man wanted to know how he could have gotten it. He didn’t have any risk factors. He didn’t travel outside of the U.S., and he didn’t drink well water. But the man did profess a love for salmon sashimi.
In 2013, scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game “examined 64 wild Pacific salmon of 5 species” looking for signs of the Japanese tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense). They found several morphotypes of Diphyllobothriid plerocercoids in the musculature of the salmon. As a result, in January 2017, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning about Alaskan salmon in their Emerging Infectious Diseases publication, based on that study. Previously, Japanese tapeworms were thought only to infect fish found in Asia.
“Proper flash freezing actual does kill the worm off, but if you don’t bring the temperature low enough; keep it low enough, then it doesn’t kill them off,” said Dr. Bahn.
Tapeworms are oftentimes asymptomatic, only appearing after a bowel movement. They may cause weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Tapeworms are treated with an anti-helminthic; the same medication veterinarians give to dogs. A single dose usually eliminates the problem.
About 1,000 new cases of tapeworm infection of different species occur every year due to infections caused by worms in undercooked beef and pork. This number may be underreported because people infected with tapeworms rarely show signs and symptoms. In extreme cases, humans may experience intestinal obstruction and Vitamin B12 deficiency.