Nine family members infected with parasite after eating bear meat: CDC

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Family members from three different states were infected with brain worms after consuming bear meat kebobs, a report from the Centers for Disease and Prevention explains.

In total, nine family members from three states (Arizona, Minnesota, or South Dakota) — attended a 2022 family gathering in South Dakota, the May 23 report says.

One of the family members had harvested the bear in northern Saskatchewan. The meat was stored in a freezer for more than a month before being prepared and used for kebobs. According to the report, the family member had been instructed by a hunting outfitter to freeze the meat in order to kill parasites.

The CDC report notes, however, that the larvae and worms later detected in the meat and family members are freeze-resistant.

8 injured after porch collapsed in New Jersey: officials

At the family gathering, the meat was grilled alongside vegetables but was accidentally served undercooked. After a few attendees initially ate the meat, it was recooked and served again.

Three of the affected family members said they had only consumed vegetables at the meal, but health officials say the meat may have already cross-contaminated the other food that was served.

A few weeks later in July 2022, one of the family members was hospitalized with a fever, severe muscle soreness and swelling around the eyes, the CDC explains. Physicians diagnosed him with trichinellosis.

Trichinellosis is a roundworm infection usually caused by eating raw or uncooked meat contaminated with the parasite trichinella. Its larvae can come from meat-eating animals like bears, as well as wild boars and walruses, according to the CDC.

Seven additional family members, including a 12-year-old girl, were ultimately diagnosed with the worms. Three of the seven were hospitalized and treated with a medication called albendazole, which kills the worms, the CDC says. Only six were symptomatic and they all recovered, according to health officials.

Leftover bear meat was tested, and Trichinellosis larvae were detected.

While trichinellosis was often caused by eating undercooked or raw pork in the U.S., the CDC points to modern regulations that have helped to lower the risk of the infection.

Man accused of throwing fire at NYC straphangers in 2 separate incidents: NYPD

Only about 15 cases are confirmed each year nationwide. From 2011 to 2021, data from the National Outbreak Reporting System says there were 15 outbreaks related to trichinella. Of those, seven were in Alaska while the others were in California, Oregon, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia.

When humans do get it, it usually comes from consuming undercooked wild game. Once the larvae get inside the body, they can move to muscle tissue and organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, and spinal cord, according to the Mayo Clinic. Complications related to the infection are rare, however.

More common symptoms of trichinellosis can include nausea, vomiting, headaches, and seizures. Some people who contract the worms have no symptoms as their immune system kills them.

The CDC stated up to one-quarter of black bears in Canada and Alaska could be infected. They advise cooking meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees or higher is needed to kill the parasites behind trichinellosis. Health officials also warn that raw meat can cross-contaminate other foods, as the bear meat appeared to do with the vegetables.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. earlier disclosed that he suffers from cognitive issues after a parasitic worm ate a portion of his brain. Kennedy previously told the New York Times he wasn’t sure where he contracted the parasite, but suspects it may have happened while traveling.

Alix Martichoux contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to PIX11.