Warning: Story contains images and descriptions some may find graphic
FRESNO, Calif. – A California man is likely altering his regular sushi habit after discovering a tapeworm that may have entered his body through the raw salmon he loves so much.
Doctor Kenny Banh revealed the Fresno man’s case on a January 8 episode of the Podcast “This Won’t Hurt A Bit,” a show that mixes medical topics with laughs.
Banh said a young man walked into the hospital complaining of bloody diarrhea and asking to to be tested for worms. The self-diagnosis seemed a little suspicious to Banh – until the man opened a grocery bag he had with him. “I take out a toilet paper roll … and wrapped around it of course is what looks like this giant, long tapeworm,” Banh said.
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Banh asked what exactly happened, and the patient recounted the abdominal cramps and other symptoms – including a trip to the bathroom when he discovered what was going on. “I looked down and it looked like there was a piece of intestine hanging out of me,” Banh remembered him saying.
The man thought he was dying, Banh said, “Oh my goodness my guts are coming out of me,” and started pulling at the worm. Once the tapeworm moved in his hand, Banh said, instead of just being horrified, the man was also relieved to know that it wasn’t his own entrails.
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Rolled out over paper on the floor of the hospital emergency room, Banh said the tapeworm measured 5 and 1/2 feet in length.
Where the tapeworm came from was the next question, and the man said he hadn’t travelled or had any questionable drinking water that he could think of. He did, however, tell Banh “I eat raw salmon almost every day,” the doctor said during the podcast.
In January, 2017 doctors warned of Japanese tapeworm parasites found in the meat of U.S. salmon. The parasites may be found in different types of fish that haven’t been flash frozen to kill the worms.
Because the Japanese version is from the same family of tapeworms, illness and symptoms should be largely the same, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN after the study was published.
The most common fish tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum and related species (including the Japanese tapeworm), can grow up to 30 feet long, according to the CDC.
“Actually, most of the people who are infected don’t have symptoms,” Schaffner said. Some feel a little bit of abdominal discomfort, some have nausea or loose stools, and some even lose a little weight.
Most often, tapeworm leads to only minor symptoms, but in exceptional cases the infection can turn into a serious medical problem, according to Roman Kuchta, lead author of the study and a research scientist at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
Once the diagnosis is made, however, the cure is simple – the same pill that people give to infected dogs can be given to humans. When asked if he’ll keep eating sushi, Banh said he would, but just not the salmon.
CNN contributed to this report.