Courtesy SavadorjoI just came across this tasty little item on CNN.com: A Chicago man recently passed a nine-foot-long tapeworm, which he believes to have gotten from undercooked salmon.
I’m not sure of the best way to express my feelings on this subject, so let’s just talk about tapeworms.
Tapeworms are, of course, parasitic flatworms. Humans can become infected with tapeworms by consuming food or water contaminated with the eggs or larvae of the worm. You might not think it, but whether one is infested with eggs or larva can make a big difference. If you accidentally eat the eggs, the larvae that hatch from them may migrate out of your intestines, and make little cystic homes in other parts of your body, like your lungs or liver. These cysts are both super gross, and super dangerous—you can die from them, and treatment is difficult. If, on the other hand, you unwittingly eat tapeworm larvae, it’s much more likely that the baby worm will snuggle up in your guts, and eat what you eat. This is super gross, and still pretty bad for you, and it’s best if you avoid it.
If you do get a tapeworm living in your intestines, as the man in the story did, you may suffer from nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, and loss of weight. Or you might not demonstrate any symptoms at all. But you’ll still have a huge worm living inside you.
There are a variety of tapeworm types that might infect you, including the beef tapeworm, the pork tapeworm, the dwarf tapeworm, and the fish tapeworm. Some tapeworms go through their whole lifecycle inside one host, developing from egg to larva to adult, while others attach themselves to the lining of the intestine, and others still allow themselves to be passed (into the toilet).
According to the Mayo clinic’s page on tapeworms, adult worms can grow up to fifty feet inside their hosts. So, all things considered, the Chicago guy should feel lucky.
Tapeworm eggs can be passed from one person to another via… stool… so be sure to wash your hands. Constantly.