To avoid an infection entirely, the CDC recommends consuming only adequately frozen or cooked fish - cooking or baking fresh fish on 145 degrees Fahrenheit for four or five minutes denatures the worm, and its larvae, entirely, claims Dr. Patrick Okolo, chief of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY. Japanese broad tapeworms or Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense are digestive tract-invading parasites.
The broad tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, has been detected in wild pink salmon from Alaska, leading researchers to believe that salmon from at least American and Asian Pacific coasts can be potentially risky to humans who eat the fish raw. Affected salmon is largely from along the American and Asian Pacific coasts, the CDC says. Nearly all of the previous cases of tapeworm infections occurring in Japan, South Korea and the Pacific coast of Russian Federation had actually been caused by Japanese tapeworms rather than D. latum.
Now his team has confirmed that the tapeworm is present in wild pink salmon from the Alaskan Pacific.
By observing the musculature and the internal organs of the fish under a magnifying glass, the researchers discovered larvae measuring up to 15 millimeters long. The findings revealed that the species of Pacific salmon such as chum salmon, masu salmon, pink salmon and sockeye salmon are also carriers of Japanese tapeworms.
Salmon is often packed and transported in ice but not frozen. This Japanese tapeworm was a parasite previously believed to only infect fish located in or near Asia.
Most people who become infected have no symptoms, the CDC says. Just some of them can suffer abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss.
About 2,000 cases of the tapeworm have been reported, mostly in Northeastern Asia, but it is believed the number of cases is highly underestimated.
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The infection is treatable with medication, he said. "The infections can have a substantial emotional impact on patients and their families, because segments are evacuated over a long period of time". "More severe cases may require specialized consultations and complementary analyses, which are costly". Along with emotional impact and expenses, there's also the initial shock - terror, really - of discovery.
The incidence of acquiring a tapeworm in the United States, though possibly underestimated, is quite low. Unfortunately, most people do not even realize they have been infected with a tapeworm. According to Dr. Patrick Okolo, chief of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, the medications used are not typical antibiotics but specialized drugs targeting specific types of parasites.
After lab testing, they established that the larvae were Japanese tapeworms. Fortunately, tapeworm infections are very rare across the United States, but CDC officials urge citizens to be aware of the risks of consuming undercooked or raw fish. Freezing will also destroy it. Schaffner admits the new study has given him "a little bit of pause - because I like salmon sushi".
As researchers continued to study this tapeworm, they discovered the original research on the tapeworm was inaccurate.
Diphyllobothrium is a species of tapeworm which can cause diphyllobothriasis in humans. "We do things that we haven't done before", Schaffner said.
The discovery has led the researchers to hypothesize the possibility of infection among the salmon caught along the Pacific coast of North America. "I am sure we will be on the lookout for this kind of tapeworm going forward".