Missouri Issues Warning on Eating Raw Crawfish

By Arkansas Game and Fish

First posted on 11-27-2009

At least three individuals have contracted a lung parasite after eating raw crawfish from rivers in southern Missouri. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services along with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has issued a warning to not eat raw crawfish.

Crayfish, crawfish or crawdads contain parasites that can cause severe lungworm disease in people and animals. Cooking crawfish kills the parasite and makes the invertebrate edible for humans.

The Missouri individuals contracted the parasites by eating raw crawfish from a tributary of the Merrimac River and another from the Current River. There are no reports of anyone contracting the parasites in Arkansas. These particular parasites have a life cycle that involves snails, crayfish and mammals.

Before eating crawfish, people should make sure they are adequately cooked. Symptoms associated with lung disease include fever, difficult or labored breathing, chronic cough, coughing up blood and abdominal pain. However, many infections can go unnoticed, or result in only mild symptoms. The disease may also involve other areas of the body such as the spleen, abdominal cavity, skin, brain and central nervous system. If the disease is contracted, symptoms usually last about five years. These symptoms tend to subside after five years, but they have been known to persist for as long as 20 years.