Family Meal Leads to Parasitic Infection from Undercooked Bear Meat

As reported by Fox8 News, Nothing brings families together like a nice meal—except perhaps a subsequent parasitic worm infection. Six family members from multiple U.S. states fell ill after sharing a meal of black bear meat and vegetables, according to a May 23 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In July 2022, a 29-year-old man arrived at a Minnesota hospital with a fever, severe muscle pain, swelling around his eyes, and blood abnormalities. He had been in pain since early July and had visited the hospital twice within two weeks, the CBC reported.

During his second visit, he mentioned that a week before his symptoms began, he and extended family members from Arizona and Minnesota had gathered with family in South Dakota. One family member brought black bear meat hunted in Saskatchewan, Canada, earlier that year. An outfitter had advised freezing the meat to kill any parasites, so it had been stored in a household freezer for 45 days before the family meal.

The bear meat was prepared as kabobs, grilled with vegetables, and served. However, the meat was initially served rare, as its dark color made it difficult to gauge doneness. Realizing it was undercooked, the family recooked the meat before serving it again.

Five family members ate the bear meat and vegetables, while three others only ate the vegetables. Days later, the 29-year-old’s symptoms began, followed by symptoms in five other family members. Six family members—four of whom ate the bear meat—were diagnosed with trichinellosis, meeting the CDC’s case criteria. Trichinella nativa, a parasitic worm typically found in wild game, was discovered in the remaining frozen bear meat.

The CDC noted that while freezing commonly kills Trichinella species associated with pork, freeze-resistant species like T. nativa, found in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, can survive. Living larvae were observed in bear meat frozen for nearly four months. told by Sky News

Trichinella is a roundworm commonly found in pigs and large carnivorous animals like bears, foxes, wild boars, and walruses. Consuming undercooked meat from these animals can lead to infection. The worms can cause intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping, fatigue, and nausea, and can also travel to muscle tissue, causing severe muscle pains, fever, facial swelling, sensitivity to light, eye infections, rashes, headaches, and chills.

All symptomatic family members were treated and recovered. Despite its rarity, infections of parasitic worms have recently made headlines. In March, a 52-year-old Florida man was found to have a tapeworm in his brain after a lifetime of eating undercooked bacon. In May, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed that a dead worm had been found in his brain after he experienced memory loss and mental fogginess.

The CDC advises cooking meat to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) to kill Trichinella parasites. It also recommends keeping raw meat separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.