ST. LOUIS, May 26 (UPI) — Worms invading the brain, lungs and other organs have made six U.S. patients sick after they ate raw crayfish.
The patients — all in the state of Missouri — three diagnosed since last September, have completely recovered once correctly diagnosed and treated with the oral drug praziquantel.
“The infection, called paragonimiasis, is very rare, so it’s extremely unusual to see this many cases in one medical center in a relatively short period of time,” infectious diseases specialist Dr. Gary Weil of Washington University in St. Louis said in a statement. “We are almost certain there are other people out there with the infection who haven’t been diagnosed. That’s why we want to get the word out.”
The parasites are half-inch, oval-shaped worms that travel from the intestine to the lungs causing pneumonia-like symptoms, severe headaches or vision loss.
Symptoms may also include fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue or fluid buildup around lungs and heart.
Weil explains the illness is so unusual most doctors are not aware of it. Patients may undergo invasive procedures — even gall bladder removal — before being correctly diagnosed.
Cooking kills the parasite, so thoroughly cooked crayfish do not pose a risk, Weil said.
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