It almost seems like something out of a nightmare, and the mere thought of it is enough to keep you up at. Could you imagine that as the result of a single meal that you developed cancer? Well, apparently in Thailand, that is exactly what is happening.
A new campaign has been started in Thailand in hopes of warning and preventing people from eating a popular local dish that could kill them. The dish is known as koi pla, and it is a cheap, but popular meal that involves the mincing of raw fish with different herbs, spices, and lemon juice. It is particularly popular in the countries poorer regions, like Isaan. And while the dish is enjoyed by millions, it is proving to have a deadly side effect – it can cause fatal liver cancer to those who eat it.
You may be surprised to know that it isn’t the fish per say that is causing the liver cancer, rather the parasitic flatworms known as liver flukes that live inside them which are to blame. This dish is so popular that officials are having a hard time keeping up with the skyrocketing rates. So how bad is it? Well on a global scale, liver cancer accounts for about 10 percent of all cancers, however, in Thailand, that figure is up to 50 percent.
The man behind the campaign is Dr. Narong Khuntikeo, who lost both his parent to bile duct cancer and has made it his life mission to educate his people after he trained to be a liver surgeon. To date, he has organized groups of doctors, researchers and scientists to take ultrasound machine and perform urine tests in order to test for the disease.
The fish for the dish is caught in the Mekong river, where the liver fluke runs rampant. And because the dish is served raw, it means that over time the residents and those who eat the dish will develop a large buildup of the parasite. Unfortunately, much of the population simply do not realize that they are at risk for such a terrible and deadly disease.
Convincing the locals to get tested has been no easy job. Despite the dangers, the dish is still considered a delicacy and many locals, mostly elders, feel that cooking the fish would ruin the taste. While it is certainly an uphill battle, we hope that word spreads quickly and people begin to get tested and seek treatment.