The CDC Just Made A Gross Discovery About Pacific Salmon

Sorry to interrupt dinner, but you’re probably going to want to choose the steak over the salmon.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s monthly journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that wild Alaskan salmon has been infected by a gross parasite known as Japanese broad tapeworm. The scientific term for the parasite is Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense.

CNN reports that the the worm was commonly perceived to infect fish in Asia. But, it’s also been found in wild-caught salmon in Alaska. Even if you live on the East Coast, there’s reason for concern. Here’s why: The researchers say salmon caught along the entire Pacific coast could be infected with the tapeworm. When the fish is transported around the country, it’s done so on ice, but isn’t actually frozen, which would kill the tapeworms.

To get specific, the CDC study identified four species of Pacific salmon that were infected with the Japanese tapeworms. They are: Chum salmon, masu salmon, sockeye salmon and pink salmon.

While the health effects aren’t too serious, they aren’t anything you’d welcome. (Ugh, diarrhea and stomach pains… no thanks!). Plus, even if you don’t have symptoms—and many people don’t—finding out you’ve got tapeworm? Ick! We’re about to get a little graphic here, but it needs to be said: You’ll know if you have tapeworm, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine told CNN. That’s because you’ll see bits of tapeworm floating in the toilet water.

The larvae can be killed if the fish is thoroughly cooked. You’ll want to make sure it’s cooked at 145° Fahrenheit for at least four or five minutes, according to the CNN report. (But still, we get it if you’ve lost your appetite). Maybe hold off on those salmon sushi rolls?

[h/t: Good Housekeeping]