Trichinosis Strikes at Bear Hunter’s Family Reunion

By Brodie SwisherMay 30, 2024

A family reunion held in South Dakota was intended to bring family together for good food and fellowship, but sadly left 6 family members battling trichinosis, an infection of brain worms.  

It’s a rare infection that can come from eating undercooked meat. It’s often seen in pork, but in this case the infection came from a black bear taken by a hunter in Canada. 

What is trichinosis? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, trichinosis (trik-ih-NO-sis), sometimes called trichinellosis (trik-ih-nuh-LOW-sis), is a type of roundworm infection. These roundworm parasites (trichinella) use a host body to live and reproduce. These parasites infect animals such as bears, cougars, walruses, foxes, wild boars and domestic pigs. You get the infection by eating the immature form of the roundworm (larvae) in raw or undercooked meat.

Trichinosis Strikes At Bear Hunter's Family Reunion

According to a FOX news report, the CDC recently released findings of its investigation into the family impacted with larval brain infections after eating meat at their family reunion.

Nine family members, from 12 to 62 years old, gathered at a relative’s home in South Dakota. The homeowner had recently returned from a Canadian hunting trip, and brought back an American black bear.

The Saskatchewan hunting outfitter recommended that he freeze the meat to kill parasites. He did, for 45 days.

The family told the CDC that grilling the bear meat kebabs was challenging because it was so dark, the cook couldn’t tell if it was done. When they bit into it, they realized it was undercooked and put it back on the grill.

One of the family members, a 29-year-old man from Minnesota, was hospitalized with fever, severe muscle pain and swelling around the eyes. This was his second hospital stay and fourth doctor visit in 17 days. He told the medical staff about eating bear meat, and that is when doctors discovered the parasitic roundworm in his body.

The CDC questioned the rest of the family spread across Minnesota, Arizona and South Dakota and found that six of them also were infected. Two of them said they only ate the vegetables that were cooked along with the meat, but scientists were not surprised.

“As demonstrated in this outbreak, the color of meat is not a good indicator of cooking adequacy,” says the CDC. “Safe handling of raw meat (i.e., separating raw or undercooked meat and its juices from other foods) is recommended to prevent trichinellosis; this investigation and previous investigations suggest that Trichinella-infected meat can cross-contaminate other foods.” 

“Although freezing kills Trichinella species commonly implicated in pork-associated outbreaks, freeze-resistant Trichinella species predominate in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions,” the CDC reported. “Persons who consume game meat, especially that harvested in northern latitudes, should be informed that adequate cooking is the only reliable way to kill Trichinella parasites. Cooking wild game meat to an internal temperature of ≥165°F is recommended by public health authorities.”

How To Cook Mongolian Venison

Prevention of Trichinosis

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best defense against trichinosis is proper food preparation. Follow their tips below to avoid trichinosis:

  • Avoid raw or undercooked meat. Be sure to thoroughly cook cuts of meat until brown. Cook pork and meat from wild animals to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C) at the center. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked.

    Don’t cut or eat meat for at least three minutes after you’ve removed it from the heat.

  • Freeze pork. Freezing pork that is less than 6 inches thick at 5 F (-15 C) for three weeks will kill the roundworm parasites. But roundworm parasites in wild-animal meat won’t die by freezing, even over a long period.
  • Know that other processing methods don’t kill parasites. Other methods of meat processing or preserving, such as smoking, curing and pickling, don’t kill roundworm parasites in infected meat. Also, microwave cooking isn’t recommended as a way to kill roundworm parasites. This is because using a microwave doesn’t provide even cooking to ensure all parasites are killed.
  • Clean meat grinders thoroughly. If you grind your own meat, make sure the grinder is thoroughly cleaned after each use.
  • Hand washing. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds after handling raw meat. This can prevent spreading infection to other food.

What about you? Have you ever known anyone infected with trichinosis? Comment below, and let us hear your story.  

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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