A California man in his 20s is recovering after surgeons recently removed a live "wiggling" tapeworm from his brain in an emergency operation. A doctor later told the California university student that after the parasite that caused him terrible headaches and his mother to call 911 entered the organ, he would have died 30 minutes later.
26-year-old Luis Ortiz was getting ready to start his senior year at Sacramento State. In August while visiting his mother in Napa he got the splitting headache.
After Ortiz' mother called 911, an ambulance sped him to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, according to CBS News. Surgeons used a camera-equipped tool to perform an emergency brain surgery.
The physicians found a tapeworm's larvae inside a cyst, according to CBS News. It was blocking flow within the California man's brain.
When the surgeons extracted the parasite, they told Ortiz it was still wiggling. He wondered how it had gotten inside his body.
The doctors explained the main causes include eating uncooked pork, swimming in a river, and visiting developing countries. At least six kinds of tapeworms can infect humans.
A parasitic brain infection can result from eating food prepared by a human host who spreads the tapeworm larva through bad hygiene and dirty areas. The tiny animal can then travel to the brain.
A brain parasite can cause a condition called neurocysticercosis, which Ortiz acquired, according to ABC News. It results in headaches that cause people to become nauseous and confused.
Ortiz is thankful to be alive. He is also looking forward to completing his college education and moving on in life.
The CDC reports that pork tapeworms yearly cause around 1,000 Americans to be hospitalized. California, Illinois, New York, and Oregon report the most cases.
Here is another case of a brain-invading tapeworm: