Scientists have confirmed that a potentially dangerous nematode parasite has been found in fish in the Danube and Nisava rivers.
"The larvae are about 4-7 centimeters long and they can be easily seen without a microscope," Dr. Miroslav Cirkovic, from the Agricultural Faculty in Novi Sad, told Balkan Insight in an article published on February 12.
Danube fishermen have been quoted as saying that the wormlike parasite began appearing in the river some years ago, but had recently multiplied in numbers.
"Fisherman can recognize sick fish on first sight – they are elongated, drawn, and thin," said one angler in the same Balkan Insight article. "When they are cut open you can clearly observe that they are all rotten."
The appearance of the worms, which can cause inflammation of the digestive tract as well as diarrhea and vomiting in humans, has stoked fears that consumers could be at risk.
There have also been reports that the parasites were discovered months ago but veterinary inspectors failed to issue any public warning.
Veterinary inspectors have since begun checking shops and supermarkets for data on the origin of the fish they sell. Authorities have also moved to allay fears concerning the fish, stressing that the worm only affects certain species.
"There is no reason to panic, even when we're mainly talking about catfish, pike, and perch, which are hosting these parasites in Serbian rivers," Sanja Celebicanin, the head of the country's veterinary inspectorate, told reporters.
She warned the public not to buy any fish from unregistered markets or makeshift stalls. She added that fish should be safe for consumption as long as they are properly cooked.
Experts have also stressed that anyone wishing to avoid the risk of gastric problems should avoid eating raw, pickled, or smoked fish for fear of falling foul of the nasty parasite.
-- Coilin O'Connor