Eat raw, live crawdads? Better think twice…
By Jo Schaper
Midway through last year, I was talking with Eleanor Maggard of Akers Ferry Canoe Rental, when Eleanor requested that Traveler warn our readers about the dangers of a double-dare fad being engaged in by Current River floaters, almost all tipsy young men. The dare involved eating live or at least newly killed Ozark crawdads raw.
Crawfish may contain the lung flukeworm parasite in their hearts. If ingested, they can migrate from the human stomach to the lungs, causing a disease called paragonimiasis. If two of the parasites reproduce in the human gut, many worms can migrate from the lungs to the heart or brain, causing serious complications.
You are very unlikely to get the parasite from Cajun crawdad etouffee or any crawdad dish. Properly cleaning and cooking crawdad meat eliminates and kills the parasites.
I was torn between talking about the odd practice and staying quiet, for the same reason that that you never tell kids not to put beans up their noses: while it’s a good preventive idea, it also raises the thought in people who had never considered it a possibility.
Last week, the Center for Disease Control put out a paper on this disease reporting research from Washington University in St. Louis and citing nine people: seven young men, one 10-year-old boy, and one 26-year-old woman who have been treated in St. Louis area hospitals for the disease recently. Seven other cases have occurred across the state. It’s an odd pocket of occurrence; mostly the disease occurs in southern Asia, where raw crustaceans are a common part of the diet.
Maybe a word to the wise is in order. Don’t eat raw crawfish, even if a few too many beers says it is ok. It isn’t.