Sushi Lovers, Watch Out

Clara Buck (11th), Reporter

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Many enjoy the Japanese-derived delicacy known as sushi for its unique and dietary tastes. However, scientists have raised concerns about the potential perils that can be found in eating sushi, or more specifically, raw fish.

Researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wrote in Emerging Infectious Diseases of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that the Japanese Broad Tapeworm was found in wild pink salmon that live in U.S. waters. The virus was typically known to affect Asian Pacific waters, and can grow up to 30 feet long in the human body.

The new research, headed by Roman Kuchta of the Czech Academy of Sciences, was based off of an analysis of 64 wild salmon samples off of the Alaskan coast. According to HealthDay, samples of pink salmon were found to harbor the Japanese tapeworm larvae.

Infections can occur by consuming raw and undercooked fish such as salmon – a staple in many sushi plates.

While the tapeworm can cause symptoms including abdominal pain and vomiting, most people who are infected with the worm do not experience any symptoms at all. In fact, contracting the tapeworm appears to be uncommon according to the CDC who state that only about 2,000 cases have been reported in humans, and seems to originate mostly from northeastern Asia.

With any consumption of raw foods there are health risks, and sushi is no exception. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, agrees.
“When you’re eating uncooked fish — or other raw foods, like unpasteurized milk — there is some inherent risk,” said Adalja.

He also noted that it is understandable people may be unmoved to eliminate sushi from their consumption, but emphasized that it is important to be aware that contracting tapeworm is a possibility.

Luckily, tapeworm is not a deadly disease. It can be treated simply with medication at a doctor’s prescription.

Dr. Patrick Okolo, chief of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed with the CDC’s findings that any tapeworm infections from raw fish would “clearly be small.”

However, he suggests anyone planning to make a raw fish dish at home should consider the following safety measure: freeze the fish for a few days to ensure all parasites are killed.

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