(CBS News) - A California man with a love of raw fish had a major scare when a trip to the bathroom led to a disturbing discovery. He felt ill with diarrhea when he noticed what looked like a piece of intestine hanging out of his body.
The man grabbed it and pulled it out and soon learned it was actually a 5-and-a-half-foot tapeworm.
Emergency physician Dr. Kenny Bahn was the doctor on call at the local emergency room in Fresno where the man went and retells the story of the incident on a recent episode of the podcast "This Won't Hurt A Bit."
The patient came to the ER and asked to be treated for worms, something Bahn said he hears a lot from patients who try to self-diagnose and often makes him skeptical.
But then Bahn noticed the man had a plastic bag in his hand. Inside, he had wrapped the worm around a cardboard toilet paper tube.
"That came out of your bottom?" Bahn asked the man, who replied, "Yes."
The doctor asked further questions and found out that the man was suffering from abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea. While using the bathroom he saw something hanging out of himself and pulled.
"He grabs it, and he pulls on it, and it keeps coming out," Bahn recounted on the podcast. He then held it in front of him "and what does it do? It starts moving."
At the hospital, Bahn unraveled the tapeworm and laid it on paper towels on the emergency room floor. It measured 5 and a half feet long. "My height," Bahn said.
He soon learned the man had not traveled to any other countries or partaken in any unusual behavior that might have exposed him to the parasite. He did admit, however, that he had a love for sushi – particularly raw salmon sashimi – and ate it daily.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a tapeworm known to infect salmon from the Asian Pacific is now present in fish from U.S. waters.
While the risk of getting a tapeworm from eating raw or undercooked fish is low, doctors warn it is possible.
Other pathogens, including the Salmonella bacteria and various parasitic worms, may also be present and can cause illness.
To protect yourself, experts recommend not buying raw or undercooked fish at restaurants that are not up to par on their health grades.
"I would not go to a restaurant with a 'C' rating in New York largely for this reason. It's a big red flag when a sushi restaurant can't maintain an 'A' rating, because one of the main things they get rated on is refrigeration. They're not cooking the fish so that is the only prevention method, keeping it cold," Dr. Daniel Eiras, assistant professor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CBS News last May.
When preparing fish at home, cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends. Freezing fish can kill parasites, too, according to the FDA.