A 26-year-old student from Napa County in California landed in the ER after his recurrent headaches and nausea worsened in early September. After several brain scans he was rushed into the operating room, where doctors removed a live tapeworm that was munching on his brain.
Luis Ortiz, who was a Sacramento State student before the incident, explained that the headaches began in late August. Back then, although he didn’t usually have such troubles, the man ignored the condition. He thought that it was either a migraine or a heatstroke.
In early September he paid a visit to a friend in Napa. After a skateboarding session with his friend, pain intensity of his headache suddenly increased. He continued to ignore it but by the time he went back home, the pain got even more intense.
His mother noticed that the man was disoriented, but when he began to vomit she called an ambulance. Ortiz said that he doesn’t recall much of those moments. In the ER, his condition got even worse and put him into a coma.
Doctors at Queen of the Valley Medical Center said that they had to place a drain in the young man’s brain to alleviate pressure. Brain scans revealed that a live parasite lodged itself in the man’s brain so they had to immediately remove it.
Neurosurgeon Soren Singel who performed the procedure said that the man was lucky to arrive in time at the hospital, because the tapeworm could have killed him. Doctors explained that the worm was blocking the water flow to the man’s brain just like a cork in a bottle does. Dr. Singel believes that it would have taken only 30 more minutes for the man to die.
“It was a close call,”
Dr. Singel added.
Yet, Ortiz condition is not rare. Many patients are infected with tapeworms from contaminated pork, fruits, vegetables and even water. Doctors said that Ortiz may have become infected with the parasitic worm after consuming salad or other unwashed foods that were laced with tapeworm eggs.
The eggs first reached the intestine where they hatched, from there, larvae somehow made it to the brain, where one continued to grow by feeding on the man’s brain tissue.
The patient was shocked when the medical staff broke the news to him. But Dr. Single was not impressed. He said that tapeworm infections are not that rare especially in California where people often go and eat in Mexico and South American countries, which have less tight regulations for meat.
But Ortiz’s case was extremely rare because the tapeworm larva didn’t die in the brain as it usually did in other cases.
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