US family infected with worms after eating black bear meat

The worm infection, called trichinellosis, is rarely reported in the United States, according to a new report of the case published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Representative Image.
Representative Image. (Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

Six family members, hailing from Arizona, Minnesota and South Dakota, caught a rare parasitic worm infection after sharing a meal that included black bear meat, which was initially served rare after being stored frozen for more than a month, according to Live Science.

The worm infection, called trichinellosis, is rarely reported in the United States, according to a new report of the case published Thursday (May 23) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 2016 and 2022, only 35 probable and confirmed cases of the disease were recorded. "Bear meat was the suspected or confirmed source of infection in the majority of those outbreaks," the report noted.

The newly reported case took place in 2022, when a 29-year-old man in Minnesota was hospitalized with a fever, severe muscle aches and pains and swelling around the eyes. He was also found to have a high number of immune cells called eosinophilia, a sign of infection.

Within a span of about half a month, Live Science added, the man had sought medical attention for his symptoms four times and was hospitalized twice. During the second hospitalization, he reported having consumed bear meat, and the medical team started him on medication for parasitic worms, just in case. They later confirmed he was carrying antibodies against Trichinella worms, and an investigation was launched to check for more cases.

About a week before he got sick, the Minnesota man had met up with nine family members in South Dakota. They'd shared a meal that included kabobs made with black bear (Ursus americanus) meat, which was originally harvested in Canada by one of the attending family members. It had been frozen for 45 days before being thawed, cooked and served with vegetables.

"The hunting outfitter had recommended freezing the meat to kill parasites," the CDC report notes. But some Trichinella species can survive being frozen. (This includes Trichinella nativa, which turned out to be the species likely involved in this case.)

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