Undercooked Bear Meat Gives Family Brain Worms

CDC reports on the strange 2022 case
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2024 1:00 AM CDT
Undercooked Bear Meat Gives Family Brain Worms
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Maliflower73)

Six members of a family became infected with brain worms after undercooked bear meat was served at a family gathering. The CDC reports on the strange case from 2022, in which a 29-year-old Minnesota man was the first to be diagnosed. Over a two-and-a-half week period, he was hospitalized more than once with symptoms including fever, swelling around his eyes, and sore muscles. He told doctors that six days prior to his symptoms appearing, he'd attended a family event in South Dakota during which bear meat was served, CBS News reports. The black bear had been harvested in northern Saskatchewan and the meat frozen, then thawed for the gathering and served in kabobs. Because of the dark color of the meat, no one noticed it was rare until people had already started eating it, at which point it was cooked more thoroughly and re-served.

But it was too late: Trichinellosis, a roundworm that can infect humans who eat wild game, is resistant to freezing and must be killed by heating meat to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. The parasite can also cross-contaminate other foods: Some of the infected relatives, including a 12-year-old girl, had only eaten the vegetables that were cooked and served alongside the bear meat. Trichinellosis larvae can move through a human host to muscle tissue and organs, including the brain. Three of the infected family members had to be hospitalized. All six affected relatives—who ranged in age from 12 to 62 and hailed from South Dakota, Minnesota, and Arizona—recovered. (More strange stuff stories.)

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