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Animal Planet Crew Films Special at St. Joseph Hospital

A national tv crew visited St. Joseph this summer to cover a patient with a rare parasite.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Earlier this year, a film crew from the Animal Planet paid a visit to Heartland Regional Medical Center.

It was the crew from The Monsters Inside Me, a program about people with rare parasites.

"For every episode, we do a series of pre-interviews with the patients, their families, and the doctors that treated them," said producer Elizabeth Ash, who spoke with KQ2 while her crew was in town.

They were covering the case of a teenage patient who had just returned from a float trip after graduation in 2010.

This patient revealed to doctors that he had found some crawfish in the river in southern Missouri.

"He boiled them in a tin can.  He ate them raw or partially cooked at best," explained Dr. Scott Folk, who treated this case.

Dr. Folk says it was the reveal about the crawfish that led to his diagnosis.   

The infectious disease specialist says it led to a case of paragonimus, a parasitic infection that can cause a number of potentially deadly symptoms.

"This organism likes to find itself in the tissue of poorly cooked crabs or crayfish; that's where it hides," Dr. Folk said.  "If a human comes along, or a bear, or another carnivore, they can get paragonimus."

Paragonimus can come from an organism called a lung fluke.

When the fluke enters a human's body, it'll make its way into the lungs and lay eggs.

"This is a very rare parasite," Ash said.  "The particular species is endemic to North America; however there are other paragonimiasis lung flukes all over the world.  This is one that's unique because it only occurs in North America."

Animal Planet's crew stayed in St. Joseph for three days.

And at this point, they're used to hearing all sorts of stories about weird creepy crawlies inside people's bodies.

"There's a huge learning curve with everything about this show; we're being introduced to a new parasite, a new infection, and then you have to learn all about that infection," Ash said.

For Dr. Folk it leads to a big take home message for any freshwater seafood lovers out there:

"Never ever ever eat raw or undercooked crab or crayfish," he said.  "Always make sure it's thoroughly cooked before you eat that."

The episode of The Monsters Inside Me that was shot here in St. Joseph will air Wednesday, December 18, at 9:00pm on The Animal Planet.

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