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MDLinxBrain Parasites Infect Six in South Dakota

Undercooked Bear Meat Linked to Rare Trichinellosis Outbreak in South Dakota: Implications for Diagnosis and Prevention

A family in South Dakota developed trichinellosis, a rare parasitic infection, after consuming undercooked bear meat at a family reunion. The CDC now emphasizes the importance of thoroughly cooking meat to prevent such infections. This incident highlights the potential risks associated with eating undercooked wild game and the necessity for healthcare professionals to consider trichinellosis in differential diagnoses when patients present with specific symptoms after consuming wild meat.

Key Points:

  • Incident Overview: Six individuals in South Dakota were diagnosed with brain parasites after consuming undercooked bear meat at a family reunion.
  • Source of Infection: The infection was caused by parasites of the genus Trichinella, commonly found in the striated muscles of wild animals like bears, moose, and wild boar.
  • Initial Symptoms: The infected family members first noticed the meat was undercooked and then returned it to the grill. Some family members who did not consume the meat but ate vegetables cooked with it were also infected.
  • Parasite Lifecycle: Trichinella larvae enter the digestive system through undercooked meat and mature into adult worms in the small bowel, producing more larvae that migrate to striated muscles.
  • Symptoms:
    • Intestinal Phase: Diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting.
    • Muscle Phase: Periorbital and facial edema, conjunctivitis, fever, myalgias, splinter hemorrhages, rashes, peripheral eosinophilia.
    • Severe Cases: Myocarditis, central nervous system involvement, pneumonitis, encephalitis.
  • Diagnosis: Physicians should consider trichinellosis in patients with relevant symptoms and recent consumption of wild game. Blood tests showing elevated eosinophil levels can be indicative.
  • Treatment: Includes anti-parasitic drugs (mebendazole, albendazole) and anti-inflammatory medications (steroids, NSAIDs).
  • Prevention: Emphasize thorough cooking of meat, especially wild game, to patients to avoid trichinellosis and similar infections.

During 1975–2012, CDC surveillance identified 1,680 trichinellosis cases in the United States with implicated food items; among these cases, 1,219 were attributed to consumption of raw or pork products, and 461 were attributed to nonpork products.

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