What is Trichinosis? Information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Trichinosis.
Trichinosis; a disease caused by eating pork or bear meat infected by Trichinella spiralis, a slender roundworm that is barely visible to the naked eye. If the worms have not been destroyed by proper cooking, they may develop in the intestines and later invade the muscle tissue, where they produce stiffness and painful swelling.
Tiny cysts, encasing immature worms, are present in contaminated pork. The human digestive process liberates them in the intestines, and they mature within a few days. The developed males fertilize the females, which then burrow into the intestinal wall and subsequently release larvae.
These larvae, carried through the blood circulation, lodge in the muscles, encysting themselves within a shell-like substance that they secrete. There they cause the pain and muscular irritation which are characteristic of the disease. Other symptoms are headache, fever, sore throat, general illness, and painfully swollen eyes. Specific treatment for the disease is not yet known. In time, the tissues of the body surround the organisms and wall them off.
Protection against trichinosis is possible in at least two ways. Since the trichinae cannot survive freezing or more than a certain degree of heat, they can be killed by freezing the meat at 0° F. for twenty-four hours or at 5° F. for twenty days, or by cooking at 140° F. or more for half an hour per pound of meat.
Another method of protecting against trichinosis is to prevent the infection in hogs. A principal source of trichinosis is uncooked garbage fed to hogs. Field-fed and grain-fed hogs have an infection rate of about .5 per cent, whereas animals fed on garbage which has not been heat-treated to kill trichinae have an infection rate of 5 per cent. Just as infected pork may be rendered safe for human consumption by proper cooking, so may garbage be made safe for pigs.
Epidemics of trichinosis are usually small and localized, and are associated with consumption of contaminated meat which can often be traced to one source. More than a quarter of pork consumed in the United States is processed without the close government supervision which is given in big packing plants and thus much pork offered for sale may harbor live trichinae. Most Americans probably consume contaminated pork at least once a year, but have no ill effects because the meat has been thoroughly cooked. The disease is, of course, more likely to occur when pork and pork products are eaten in a raw or semi-raw condition.
the disease and its causes Trichinosis is a roundworm infection which man contracts when he eats infected pork. The life cycle of the roundworm is such that the larval stage (the stage of the young worm just after it comes out of its egg) exists in the infected pig. When man eats raw or partially cooked infected pork, these larvae are freed in the course of digestion and pass into the small intestine. There they attach themselves, develop into adult worms, and reproduce. Their eggs pass through the walls of the bowel and are carried via the bloodstream to the muscles, where they form cysts. In occasional cases, the roundworms may find their way to the heart muscle and eventually the brain. Trichinosis is a quite common ailment, especially among people who eat ham or pork in a raw or partially cooked state.
symptoms The number of roundworms eaten determines the symptoms. In many cases, there are no symptoms at all. But when a patient has eaten a good many of the worms, there is usually abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and occasionally diarrhea. This is followed by chills and fever up to 102°-104°. The muscles become very tender and are painful on motion. There may be respiratory signs such as shortness of breath and hoarseness. Swelling around the eyes is not unusual. There may be a red rash over the body. In severe cases, this stage can last as long as eight weeks.
As convalescence sets in, the larvae become locked into the muscles and the symptoms subside.
complications Complications can be severe. They include pneumonia, involvement of the heart, and phlebitis—which is a vein inflammation in which blood clots form.
prevention (or lessening of impact) Trichinosis can be prevented simply by cooking all pork and pork products thoroughly. This destroys any larvae in the meat to be eaten.
***This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a doctor warning or recommendation.