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What are the Risks of Trichinosis?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2016
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In the United States, the risk of contracting trichinosis is very rare. Trichinosis is a disease caused by parasites that live in meats that have not been cooked properly. The undercooked meat will contain Trichinella spiralis cysts, which are passed on to humans when the meat is eaten. For humans, the most extreme risk factor from trichinosis is heart failure.

Due to health regulations in the United States, trichinosis is a very uncommon infection. It does however, still occur in places where untreated meat is eaten. Livestock that is bred to be eaten by the owners carries the highest risk of infection.

If an animal is infected, then cysts will grow in its muscles. When these cysts are eaten by humans, they will hatch in the digestive tract. Adult roundworms will be produced and go on to produce more larvae. The larvae will pass through the intestinal tract and the bloodstream, eventually ending up in the human’s muscles.

Symptoms of trichinosis appear eight to 15 days after the meat has been ingested. The main symptoms of trichinosis in humans are cramping, diarrhea and muscle pains. Muscle pain can be felt especially when exercise is taken. Other symptoms may include a fever, headaches and extreme tiredness.

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The muscle pain can be extreme and felt even while performing simple breathing motions. Swelling may also occur around the face and eyes. As the heart is one of the body’s major muscles, the larvae will swarm to it. Heart palpitations will result, and heart damage may occur.

Trichinosis is a very rare infection in the United States. When it does occur, it is usually infrequent and is localized to non-commercial pig breeders. Local breeders are periodically checked by health authorities.

Trichinosis is an easily preventable infection. Meats, especially pork, should be cooked thoroughly to kill any cysts that exist. Domestic meat should be safe, but meat killed in the wild should be thought of as a breeding ground for this infection.

Once trichinosis has infected the muscles, there is no specific treatment for it. The effects on the body will depend on how many cysts have been ingested. The symptoms may be very mild or severe. Painkillers can be used to treat any discomfort. Heart failure is the most severe result of ingesting large quantities of infected meat.

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