CDC Reports Brain Worm Disease in Family After Eating Black Bear Meat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that six family members had brain worms from dark bear meat that one of the family members had collected.

The CDC reports in a report released May 23 in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that nine extended family members got together in May 2022 in South Dakota and consumed grilled kabobs of vegetables and black bear meat, which was harvested by one of the family members in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

According to the report, which was authored by state and federal health inspectors, after a few people had eaten part of the meat, they realized it was undercooked and cooked it further.

A 29-year-old family member was admitted to the hospital six days later with symptoms that included a high count of white blood cells (eosinophils), a fever, severe muscle aches and pains, and swelling around the eyes.

After learning about the bear’s eating of meat during a second hospital stay, medical professionals gave him albendazole, a medication used to treat trichinellosis, a condition brought on by an infection with parasitic roundworms.

The bear meat had been frozen, and while some Trichinella worms are killed by freezing, others do not die from the cold. Larvae can develop and create additional parasites when humans consume contaminated meat.

The brain and heart muscles may become inflamed as a result of worms finding their way into these areas of the body. They may develop cysts there and perhaps result in seizures.

Six people at a family get-together harbored roundworms

According to the CDC, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are possible signs of trichinellosis.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. CeŁline Gounder stated that some individuals who have the worms may not even exhibit any symptoms.Gounder continued, “Typically, your immune system “walled off” these parasites, calcifying them.The CDC report was initially covered by CBS News.

Researchers discovered that the epidemic affected six people from the gathering who were infected—four of whom ate the meat and two of whom only consumed vegetables—after the Minnesota Department of Health launched an inquiry.

They were from Minnesota, Arizona, and South Dakota, and their ages ranged from 12 to 62. According to the CDC, two other sick individuals were admitted to the hospital and received albendazole treatment.

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How might consuming bear meat cause brain worms to develop?

Roundworms are probably carried by black bears. According to the CDC, up to 24% of black bears in Alaska and Canada may be sick. After testing, it was discovered that the bear meat in this instance had Trichinella nativa, a form of roundworm.

Trichinellosis occurrences are still uncommon; from January 2016 to December 2022, the CDC recorded only seven outbreaks, with 35 cases being suspected or confirmed, according to the agency. According to the CDC, bear meat was the confirmed or suspected source of illness in most of the outbreaks.

To eradicate the parasites, bear meat must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Raw meat should be stored and prepared separately from other foods since contaminated meat can cross-contaminate them, according to the FDA.

Recent reports in The New York Times have brought attention to brain worms, following the discovery of a dead worm in the brain of Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s years ago by medical professionals.


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