Doctors removed a live leech from the throat of a 5-year-old after the parasite lived there unnoticed and caused painful symptoms “for over a year”.
The young patient was treated on October 16 in Shuangjiang district in the southwestern province of Yunnan in China while being held overnight for observation, a hospital report said.
At the Shuangjiang People’s Hospital, it was said that the boy from Mengku county seat suffered from recurring symptoms such as sore throat, difficulty breathing and snoring in his sleep.
He had been taken to other institutions for treatment in the past, but his condition lasted more than 12 months, the hospital said.
According to the report, the 2.75 inch parasite was discovered by Zhu Weihong, an ear, nose and throat specialist.
A video released by the facility showed Dr. Zhu reaching into the child’s throat with pliers before pulling the still-fidgeting leech out of the boy’s mouth.
On the faces of the other doctors in the operating room, there is a surprising expression on their faces as the parasite emerges from the forceps and swings back and forth, as the footage shows.
Zhu said, “This is the leech that was removed behind the glottis of a five-year-old boy. It is likely that the leech was the cause of the boy’s breathing difficulties”.
“It is possible that he was drinking raw water,” the physician added, suggesting that the boy may have ingested an egg or leech in larval form. “If our children in rural areas do not change their sanitary practices, these kinds of cases will continue.
“Parents should be reminded not to let their children drink raw water,” he said.
Zhu said the “suitable” conditions in the boy’s throat made it likely that the parasite had lived there “for over a year” before it was found.
Dr. Yu Zhiqiang of Ruikang Hospital in Nanning, Guangxi a, commented on the case to a TV station in Guangxi: “Leeches can enter our bodies through our oral or nasal cavities and live in the upper airways.
“They live on our blood, and some gradually grow larger. Some patients experience symptoms such as pain or obstruction of nasal passage; others show up with coughing, sometimes with coughing up blood.
“Some leeches become so large that they eventually block the throat and cause breathing difficulties.
“Ideally, we should always treat our food with great heat and cook it thoroughly before eating.
Yu explained that this is the most effective way to kill eggs.
Leeches are found throughout China and thrive in temperatures between 50 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, local media reports said.