Officials in Puerto Octay, Lagos region, Chile are issuing a health alert after an outbreak of the tapeworm infection, diphyllobothriasis had been reported.

Diphyllobothrium Life cycle/CDC
Diphyllobothrium Life cycle/CDC

According to local media (computer translated), six cases in adults ages 30-60 have been confirmed positive for the parasite. They all noted  being frequent consumers of raw fish, mostly as ceviche.

“From the hospital in Puerto Octay, an outbreak of diphyllobothriasis has been detected, and six people have been confirmed, all of whom are consumed by preparations made from raw fish,” Scarlet Molt said .

People affected by the disease have abdominal distension or pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting . It is not contagious and the only way to acquire it is by consuming contaminated raw fish.

The health authority called on the population so that people who present the symptoms go to the hospital in the commune to receive the corresponding treatment.

Chile: Foodborne parasites of importance in public health

What is the fish tapeworm? It is several species from the genus Diphyllobothrium with D. latum being most common. The adult tapeworm can grow in excess of 40 feet in length.

It occurs in lake regions in the northern hemisphere but cases are seen in the sub-arctic, temperate and tropical zones where eating raw or partly cooked fish is popular.

The disease is frequently asymptomatic, however some people develop vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious) anemia. Very heavy infections may cause diarrhea, obstruction of the bile duct or intestine and toxic symptoms.

Treatment with the antiparasitic drug Praziquantel is the drug of choice.