Rare Brain Worms Spread by Unsanitary Cooks

mysanantonio.com, Jan. 12, 2007

There was a time when Renaldo Ramirez, of Houston, didn’t like to cook.

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Ramirez is a tile worker who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador 20 years ago.

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Doctors at a clinic gave him medicine for high blood pressure. A few days later he passed out and didn’t wake up for eight days.

Dr. Aaron Mohanty found a cyst of tapeworm larvae living in Ramirez’s brain. If it hadn’t been found, the doctor said, Ramirez could have been dead within hours from the disease called cysticercosis. The disease is usually found in rural parts of developing countries with poor hygiene habits. However, Ramirez was the fourth patient Mohanty treated within a few months.

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The tapeworm eggs are spread by a human host who doesn’t practice good hygiene after using the restroom. An unsuspecting victim then eats the contaminated food, Ostrosky said.

“These eggs hatch in the intestine and go through the gut-wall and into the circulation where they get stuck somewhere,” Ostrosky said.

Ramirez’s cyst was removed through a small incision. During his recovery Ramirez learned to cook and now prepares his own food.

There have been cases of cysticercosis in South Texas, San Antonio’s Metro Health District said, but it is not a major outbreak.

The best way to avoid the disease, doctors say, is to wash your hands, cook meats thoroughly, especially pork, and to wash fruits and vegetables.

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