HomePOPULARBear Meat and Trichinosis surprising Summer Reunion Turns Hazardous

Bear Meat and Trichinosis surprising Summer Reunion Turns Hazardous

In the summer of 2022, a family reunion in South Dakota took a turn for the worse after a celebratory dinner featuring black bear kebabs. The bear meat, hunted in Canada and stored frozen as advised, brought with it an unexpected and dangerous guest: Trichinella nativa, a hardy parasitic roundworm.

The Incident

A family of nine gathered for their summer reunion, with the black bear kebabs being a highlight of the dinner. The bear meat had been kept frozen, following the recommendations of the hunting guide from northern Saskatchewan. However, the freezing process did not eliminate all risks. Once thawed, cooked, and served, the bear meat carried Trichinella nativa larvae, which led to severe health consequences for the family.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Days after the meal, family members began experiencing flu-like symptoms. While three individuals had mild symptoms that resolved on their own, three others were hospitalized, with one family member requiring repeated medical attention due to severe symptoms including fever, muscle aches, swelling around the eyes, and elevated white blood cell counts.

Investigation and Findings

Upon learning of the bear meat consumption, the CDC investigated, obtaining a sample of the leftover frozen bear meat. Microscopic examination revealed active Trichinella larvae, despite the meat having been frozen for 110 days. Genetic testing confirmed the parasite as Trichinella nativa, known for its resistance to freezing and commonly found in wild game like boar, fox, walrus, and bear.

Trichinella infections, or trichinosis, are rare in North America, with about 20 cases reported annually in the US since 2010. Outbreaks involving multiple individuals are even rarer. Four weeks post-symptom onset, six affected individuals were tested for trichinosis, with two confirmed positive and four considered probable cases based on clinical and epidemiological criteria.

The CDC’s report suggests that cross-contamination likely occurred during meal preparation, affecting even those who only ate vegetables. Initially, the bear meat was served rare due to its dark color, which made it difficult to judge its doneness. When undercooking was noticed, the meat was recooked, but the damage may have already been done.

Lessons and Warnings

This incident underscores the importance of proper handling and cooking of wild game to prevent parasitic infections. Freezing is not always sufficient to kill all parasites. Adequate cooking is the only reliable method to ensure safety. The CDC advises that those consuming wild game meat should be aware of the risks and take necessary precautions to avoid cross-contamination.

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