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Published On: Sat, Oct 26th, 2013

Canada: Trichinosis outbreak sickens 15 in Nunavik

Nunavik public health officials are advising the public to thoroughly cook wild meat in light of an outbreak of trichinosis that has sickened some 15 people in Inukjuak, Quebec, with two requiring hospitalization, according to a CBC report.

Trichinella Image/CDC

Trichinella
Image/CDC

The source of the 15 cases of the parasitic infection that have been reported since early October is still under investigation.

Dr. Jean-Francois Proulx with Public Health in Kuujjuaq says Inukjuak has had a walrus meat testing program since the 1990s. Walrus meat harvested recently was tested and came back negative. And, he says, the parasite had made people sick even before walrus was harvested and consumed in the community.

“It’s a challenge to come to a final answer in such a context but we think that it’s important to document as much as we can — all potential avenues — in order to contribute to further knowledge on this very rare disease,” he said.

In the Arctic, trichinellosis, or trichinosis, is caused by a microscopic parasite called Trichinella nativa, sometimes found in the meat of wild mammals like polar bears, black bears, wolves, foxes and, most commonly, walruses.

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused most commonly by the roundworm Trichinella spiralis. If someone ingests undercooked or raw meat with the encysted larvae, the stomach acid releases the larvae which mature to adults in the intestine.

After about a week the female starts releasing larvae which enter the bloodstream and find their way to skeletal muscle where they encapsulate.

There can be gastrointestinal symptoms mimicking acute food poisoning when there is activity of the adults in the intestine.

Sudden appearance of fever, muscle soreness and pain with swelling of parts of the face is early classic signs. This can sometimes be followed by retinal hemorrhages and other ocular signs.

With heavy infections cardiac, respiratory and neurological problems may ensue with death by heart failure being most common. The more larvae you ingest, the more serious the disease.

Due to inspections, laws that prohibit feeding meat and meat byproducts to swine, better pest control by keeping rats away from where pigs are kept and an educated public who is aware of the risks of eating undercooked pork, trichinosis is a minor public health problem.

There are still small outbreaks from time to time here and abroad with the consumption of dog, bear, wild boar and cougar, just to name a few.

Other animals that are considered hosts to this parasite include: cats, rats, horses, foxes, wolves, polar bears, marine mammals of the Arctic and lions and leopards in the tropics.

What preventive measures are available?
• Cook all fresh pork, pork products and meat from wild animals to where all the meats reaches 160° F. The meat should turn from pink to gray.
• Freezing pork at -13° F for at least 10 days will kill the cysts. The exception to this rule is strains of Trichinella found in walrus and bear meat which are cold-resistant and must be cooked as noted above.
• Smoking, salting or drying meat is not effective.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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