Trichinosis is a foodborne infection, which affects the muscles of the body. It is caused by the roundworm, Trichinella spiralis. Trichinosis is rare in the United States.
Anyone who eats undercooked meat from infected animals can develop trichinosis. Pork, pork products, and wild animal meat are potential sources of Trichinella.
Trichinosis is spread when animals or humans eat undercooked meat from animals that are infected with Trichinella. Meat-eating animals such as pigs, dogs and cats, and wild animals such as rats, foxes, wolves, and bears may be infected with Trichinella. The infection is not spread by person-to-person contact.
The symptoms usually start with diarrhea, fever, muscle soreness, pain and swelling around the eyes. Thirst, profuse sweating, chills, weakness and tiredness may develop.
Diarrheal symptoms may appear after a few days. Other symptoms usually appear within 8 to 15 days after eating infected undercooked meat.
Once an individual recovers from a trichinosis infection, he or she may develop some immunity (protection) against Trichinella.
A doctor can request a blood test to check for Trichinella antibodies, or perform a muscle biopsy to check muscle tissue for the parasite.
Specific medicines called albendazole or mebendazole are used in treatment.
The best prevention is to make sure that meat products are properly cooked. Meats should be heated thoroughly to allow all parts to reach at least 160·F for at least 15 minutes. It is also important not to contaminate food preparation surfaces with raw meat. Cutting boards, counters and utensils used to prepare food should be washed with hot soapy water before and after handling raw meat.