Bad news for sushi lovers: HealthDay reports that scientists have confirmed that a tapeworm that normally infects salmon from the Asian Pacific is now present in salmon from U.S. waters. That tapeworm, known as the Japanese broad tapeworm, can grow up to 30 feet long in the human body, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before you freak out, it turns out most people who become infected have no symptoms, the CDC says. But if you do have symptoms, they can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss, which sounds about right for having a parasite living inside you. Over time, the infection can also lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12.
Infection with a tapeworm isn't super common, and they aren't that dangerous in most cases (though they remain mind-blowingly disgusting). If infected, that means the “head” of the worm attaches to the wall of your intestine and absorbs your nutrients. From there, tapeworms grow a bunch of little segments called proglottids, which contain eggs, and are often passed out of the body with the host's stool, according to Health.com.
Tapeworm infection usually happens when you eat raw fish or meat, which is why this is scary for sushi and cerviché lovers. Consuming raw fish and meat carry other risks, like bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. Cooking kills bacteria and infection, so enjoy smoked salmon on your bagel or a baked fillet if you're concerned.