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Minnesota Family Members Got Brain Worms After Eating Bear Meat That Wasn’t Cooked Enough


A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that brain worms were spread to some family members who ate bear meat that one of the family members had caught earlier.

A 29-year-old guy had been hospitalized several times over the course of two and a half weeks in July 2022 with fever, severe muscle pain, swelling around the eyes, and other illnesses. This was reported to the Minnesota Department of Health.

After his second stay in the hospital, the man told the doctors that he had been to a family reunion in South Dakota a few days before and that one of the meals they shared was kabobs made from black bear meat that “had been harvested by one of the family members in northern Saskatchewan.”

Before being used for the meal, the meat had been frozen for five months and a half. The CDC said that the meat was served rare at first because it was darker to avoid contamination. People in the family started to eat the kabobs, but they thought the meat wasn’t done enough, so it was cooked again and served again.

Nine family members ate the meal. Most of them were from Minnesota, but some were from South Dakota and Arizona. Some of them only ate the veggies that were cooked and served with the bear meat.

Finally, doctors told the man, who was 29 years old, that he had trichinellosis, a roundworm that is very rare in humans and is generally acquired by eating wild game. The larvae can move through the body to muscle tissue, organs, and even the brain once they are inside a person.

Five more family members were found to have these freeze-resistant worms. Two of them were vegetarians (a 12-year-old girl and two other family members). Albendazole was given to three family members who were hospitalized. According to the Mayo Clinic, this drug stops the worms from taking sugar, which “makes the worm lose energy and die.”

The CDC said that the only sure way to get rid of trichinella parasites is to cook the meat they live in until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. They also said again that these parasites can spread to other foods.

The CDC said that different groups have different ideas about how common trichinella bugs are in wild animals. However, they do think that up to a quarter of black bears in Canada and Alaska may have them.

Brain worms were in the news earlier this year when presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that a parasitic worm he got years ago “ate a portion” of his brain, which could have led to memory loss.

Headaches, seizures, nausea, and vomiting are some of the signs of a brain worm infection that Dr. Céline Gounder told “CBS Mornings.” But some people who get the worms may not have any signs at all. Gounder also said that these bugs “get walled off by your immune system and get hard.”

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