Sushi Lovers! These Dangerous Worms are Probably Inside You. Here’s What You Should Do
Tapeworms, like the nematodes responsible for anisakiasis, generally stay in the digestive tract. In many cases, a person with a tapeworm infestation from sushi will not have symptoms. However, an infected person may experience diarrhea, general discomfort, and weight loss. In extreme cases, the worms may cause an intestinal obstruction.
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Gnathostomiasis: the Most Dangerous
Anisakiasis and tapeworm infestations can be inconvenient and painful, and they may cause the sufferer to need surgery. However, gnathostomiasis, or an infection with a worm (nematode) from the genus gnathosoma, is often much worse. These parasitic worms are most commonly seen in southeast Asia and parts of Africa, but they are rare in the Americas. These worms resemble small lampreys, and they are contracted much like anisakiasis is.
Though eating uncooked seafood is a common way to contract a gnathostoma worm, eating undercooked or uncooked freshwater animals (including birds who drink from freshwater) can put a person at risk. And while the worms responsible for anisakiasis generally are confined to the digestive tract, these worms can travel into many areas of the body.
Most commonly, gnathosoma worms are seen as small swellings under the skin. These swellings, unlike most skin bumps, move. This is because the worm moves right beneath the skin. If you do see a moving swelling, it’s imperative that you see a doctor immediately, as many of these worms move deeper into the body.
A gnathosoma worm may work its way into the liver and into the central nervous system and eyes. Though the worm is not poisonous, it can cause pain, paralysis, coma, and death. This is because it travels along nerves, causing excruciating pain. If the worm gets to the eyes, it can cause permanent blindness.
The most common signs you have worms inside are:
- abdominal or right upper quadrant pain
- sudden weight loss
So What Can You Do About It?
The CDC recommends avoiding uncooked or undercooked fish. If you are very worried about worms but still want to enjoy sushi, most restaurants offer fully-cooked rolls in addition to raw rolls. If you do eat raw or undercooked fish, however, it’s important to be vigilant.
For instance, you will likely be able to tell if you have worms approaching your brain if you suffer severe, unexplained nerve pain. In order to avoid this, though, monitor your skin closely, especially after eating raw fish. If you see a bump, watch to ensure it isn’t moving. If it moves – or if you experience abdominal pain or any of the other symptoms of an infestation, visit a doctor to avoid more serious complications.