5-foot tapeworm wiggled out of California man after eating sushi

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5-foot tapeworm wiggled out of California man after eating sushi

A sushi-loving California man with a habit of consuming raw salmon on the daily recently pulled out a 5-foot tapeworm from his own body.

According to Dr. Kenny Bahn, who treated the man in August and revealed the case on a Jan. 8 episode of the medical podcast “This Won’t Hurt a Bit,” his patient thought he was dying.

"He asked me for worm treatment and I was like, 'Oh, not an everyday request,'" Bahn said on the podcast, skeptical about the patient’s self-diagnosis.

It all started with abdominal cramps and escalated to bloody diarrhea. Then, the man told Bahn, when he went to the bathroom, “I looked down and it looked like there was a piece of intestine hanging out of me.”

Though the visual is horrifying, the man was relieved to find it wasn’t a part of his own intestines.

Instead, it was a 5-and-a-half foot tapeworm “wiggling” out of his body, likely a result of the man’s daily consumption of raw salmon, Bahn said.

Doctors have long warned that eating raw salmon in the U.S., particularly along the Pacific Coast, may increase risk of those Japanese tapeworm parasites.

According to the CDC, the Japanese tapeworm and related species can grow up to 30 feet long.

Not everyone infected with the tapeworm will have symptoms, but some common signs and symptoms of a Diphyllobothrium infection can include abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss.

In some cases, complications can lead to intestinal obstruction and gall bladder disease, according to the CDC.

Once diagnosed, a health care provider prescribes an effective medication, typically a pill, to cure the infection.

This story has been updated. A previous version included research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that misstated some specific conclusions. You can read more about that research, which examined reemerging Diphyllobothriosis and the increased popularity of eating raw fish, at wwwnc.cdc.gov. The report provides additional evidence that salmon from the Pacific coast of North America may represent a source of human infection. 

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