Put Down That Sushi! Thirty-Nine Foot Tapeworms on the Rise

June 13, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Think twice before ingesting that delectable piece of sushi, sashimi or the popular raw seafood appetizer, ceviche. Parasitic tapeworms, once mostly a problem reserved for tropical Asian climates, are now on the rise in urban regions of North America and Europe.

With the recent rise in the popularity of eating raw fish, health officials are reporting an alarming increase in cases of human tapeworm, especially when eating either freshwater fish or farm-raised fish.

A tapeworm is a parasitic flatworm that can infect our digestive tracts after eating uncooked meat, fish or coming into contact with animal feces, which contain tapeworm larvae. Properly cooked meat and fish kill any larvae.

The disgusting creatures can live in our bodies for up to 30 years, usually without producing any symptoms until it infects muscle tissue. They have hooks and suckers on their head and have flat ribbon-like bodies that can grow up to 39-feet long!

Cases in urban areas are cropping up, because of the popularity of Japanese raw fish dishes, such as sushi and sashimi and the Latin American raw seafood dish, ceviche. Scientists are beginning to refer to the prevalence of urban tapeworm cases caused by trendy cuisine, as the yuppie tapeworm.

Scientists are attributing many of the parasitic infections to a tapeworm found in salmon, called Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense. Since salmon spends time in rivers, it’s susceptible to tapeworm larvae and eating it raw or even undercooked is not recommended.

Farm raised salmon from South America is also becoming increasingly infected with a similar tapeworm, which also infects perch and other freshwater fish.

Health officials advise to stay away from raw freshwater fish or salmon. Those varieties of fish should only be consumed after properly cooked at a high enough temperature to kill off any larvae.

When ordering sushi or ceviche, choose a deep ocean fish, like tuna and definitely stay away from any farm-raised fish, unless you want to risk becoming infected with a 39-foot tapeworm in your intestine.

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