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Love Sushi? U.S. Salmon Found With Japanese Tapeworm

Update Date: Jan 16, 2017 09:10 AM EST
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Wild salmon caught in Alaska were found to have Japanese tapeworm, according to a study in U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases. The broad tapeworm, scientifically called Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, is common in fish in Asia Pacific coasts.

Since salmon is packed and transported on ice, but not frozen, the larvae of the Japanese tapeworm might have survived the trip. Consumers in China, Europe, New Zealand and some parts of the U.S. might have already been infected. Researchers said that if the problem is not contained, tapeworm could easily spread in the country.

Four Pacific salmon species are reported to have Japanese tapeworm, namely: chum, masu, pink and sockeye. Broad tapeworms are the largest type that can infect people. It can grow as long as 30 feet.

Larvae of Japanese tapeworm are found in the musculature and internal organs of the salmon. They measure between 8 to 15 millimetres and continuously elongate and contract.

People often discover they are infected when they find bits of tapeworm floating in the water. Health effects of the Japanese tapeworm found in salmon are not generally serious and most humans that are infected with the parasite are asymptomatic according to a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Some may also get abdominal discomfort, nausea, loose stools and weight loss. However, on rare occasions, the infection can also turn serious.

Complications brought about by tapeworm infection include intestinal obstruction and gall bladder disease that is caused by the migration of proglottids. A stool exam will help in identifying and diagnosing eggs or segments of the tapeworm. Medications are available to treat those infected with the parasite.

Infection risk with the parasitic tapeworm is increased when people eat raw or undercooked salmon dishes like ceviche, sashimi and sushi. The CDC suggests freezing or cooking the salmon to eliminate the tapeworm.

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