Trichinosis, also called trichinellosis, is a type of parasitic infection caused by a species of roundworms known as Trichinella. These roundworms are carried by animals that are carnivores, including pigs, bears, boars, and foxes. Mild cases of trichinosis may not produce any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, the first ones are likely to be abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
These often begin within one to two days of infection, and after a week of infection, more advanced symptoms such as a high fever, muscle pain, headaches, and sensitivity to light may develop. Some patients could also experience swelling of the face and eyelids and conjunctivitis. To diagnose trichinosis, a blood test is normally all that is needed. Sometimes, a muscle biopsy may be useful as well. Treatment includes anti-parasitic medication and pain relievers, and some patients may also need corticosteroids.
Time In Rural Areas
Patients who spend time in rural areas are known to be at an elevated risk of trichinosis, and the disease is more prevalent in rural communities. Rural areas tend to be agricultural, and numerous hog-farming operations may be located in these areas. In particular, patients who work in the hog farming industry are at an elevated risk for trichinosis because the parasite is most commonly found in pigs.
To decrease the risk of trichinosis, individuals who work in hog farming or other livestock industries are encouraged to follow all workplace safety precautions. Those who live in rural areas with large bear and wild boar populations are advised to avoid eating bear and boar meat as these carry a high risk of a trichinosis infection.
Compromised Preparation Of Food
The compromised preparation of food is one of the leading causes of trichinosis. To prepare food properly, experts recommend the use of a food thermometer when cooking meat. It is especially important to cook meat to the proper temperature; the cooking process kills the parasite that causes trichinosis. Poultry should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and wild game and ground meat need to be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Whole cuts of meat should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to cooking food to a safe temperature, it is important to clean all meat grinders properly after use. Patients should know freezing wild game may not be sufficient to kill Trichinella, and smoking, drying, salting, and microwaving meat does not kill the parasite.
In fact, homemade sausage and jerky has been the main cause of trichinosis in recent years. However, experts note freezing pork in sections less than six inches thick for a period of at least twenty days can effectively kill Trichinella; for this to work, the pork must be frozen at a temperature of no more than five degrees Fahrenheit. After preparing raw meat, patients should always wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least twenty seconds, and any cutting boards or other kitchen areas that came into contact with the meat should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected as well.
Eating Wild Or Otherwise Non-Commercial Meat
As may be evident at this point, eating wild or otherwise non-commercial meat is another major cause of this condition. While strict regulations have drastically reduced the number of trichinosis cases caused by commercially prepared meats, noncommercial meat is not subject to any of these safety standards. In particular, noncommercial animals raised on domestic farms are heavily linked to trichinosis, and this risk increases if the animals have had contact with the carcasses of wild animals.
In addition, types of wild meat such as horse, walrus, and bear meats still pose an increased risk of infection with Trichinella. Experts suggest bear, wild boar, horse, and walrus meat should not be eaten. Similarly, to prevent trichinosis in animals, individuals who own livestock should not feed undercooked meat, scraps, or animal carcasses to their livestock.
Myocarditis is one of the leading complications that can occur as a result of trichinosis. The myocardium is the muscular layer that makes up the wall of the heart, and myocarditis develops when there is an inflammation in this area. Symptoms of myocarditis generally include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), and fatigue. Some patients may also have swelling in their legs, feet, or ankles due to fluid retention.
To diagnose myocarditis, patients may need to have an electrocardiogram, blood tests, a chest x-ray, a cardiac MRI scan, and an echocardiogram. While some cases of this condition may improve without treatment, diuretics, beta blockers, and ACE inhibitors may be useful in resolving mild cases. For more serious cases, patients may need intravenous medications, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and ventricular assist devices.
Meningitis is a potentially fatal inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord, and it is one of the most severe potential complications of trichinosis. Meningitis normally progresses rapidly, and initial symptoms may include a stiff neck, a sudden and high fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and confusion. As the disease advances, patients might become sensitive to light, and they could also have a skin rash that does not fade with the application of pressure. Seizures, walking difficulties, loss of appetite, and loss of thirst are also common in the later stages. A lumbar puncture is often needed to diagnose this condition.
Most cases of meningitis are considered medical emergencies that require immediate treatment in the hospital. Meningitis treatment depends on the exact type and cause of meningitis and typically includes intravenous antibiotics, corticosteroids, bed rest, and other supportive methods that treat pain, fever, and any additional symptoms. For patients with trichinosis, treatment for the parasitic infection normally helps in resolving meningitis.