WHAT'S THAT YOU'RE GRILLING?

It's grilling season! I've been working on getting my grill out and all cleaned up so I can run out to my backyard for the entire summer and grill anything and everything from Salmon and Chicken to hotdogs and hamburgers.

For some of you, those options just aren't enough. You like to get the deer meat out of the freezer. Some of you will even grill up a squirrel, froglegs, bison or maybe even Bear. People who are going to be eating wild game should invest in a meat thermometer and make sure your meat is cooked to at least 165 degrees.

I don't want to stop you from enjoying your wild game on the grill, but, that thermometer could save you from a terrible illness that makes me sick just thinking about it.

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FAMILY REUNION GONE BAD

Back in 2022, a family gathered for a family reunion in South Dakota, including a 29-year-old man from Minnesota. The family made special kabobs that were made from the meat of a black bear that one of the family members brought. The family didn't have a meat thermometer, and basically just did the eye check, figuring the meat looked dark enough to be cooked all the way through. However; after serving it, a few family members noticed that it was still rare, so they decided to recook it. Unfortunately, eating just a bite of this undercooked bear meat lead to something none of us ever want to experience.

A few days after the reunion, the 29-year-old male from Minnesota started getting sick. He had a fever, severe muscle pains, swelling around his eyes, high levels of infection fighting white blood cells, and some other strange lab results. He sought help four times and was hospitalized twice in a 17-day span in July. It was on that second hospital visit that the doctors learned he had eaten bear meat.

WHAT IS TRICHINELLOSIS?

The man had contracted Trichinellosis. Trichinella nematodes (roundworms) are dangerous parasites that can be found all over the world, embedded in the muscle fibers of different kinds of animals that eat meat and vegetation, according to the CDC. Between 2016 and 2022, there were 35 cases of it in seven outbreaks of Trichinellosis in the US, most of which were linked to eating bear meat and wild boar.

Once you eat the affected meat, the larvae that are in the meat release and start to invade the small intestines.They then turn into adults in the gut, and start producing more larvae. The second generation of worms then start wandering through the lymphatic system, into the blood, and then throughout the body. The larvae can end up pretty much everywhere, including the heart, brain, and muscles.

EARLY SYMPTOMS

Early symptoms include fever, severe muscle pains and swelling around the eyes. Nausea and vomiting, and brain inflammation.

Of the eight family members that ate the bear meat at the reunion, 6 of them had roundworms and three of them were hospitalized, including a 12 year old. Four of the six people that were sick had eaten the bear meat, but two of them only ate the meat that was cooked alongside the bear meat. Leftover frozen samples of the bear meat were tested and confirmed moving larvae. The worm was Trichinella Nativa, which is a species that is resistant to freezing.

Health officials from Minnesota and the CDC reported that the 3 patients that were hospitalized, were treated and recovered. The other three cases recovered without any treatment.

TRICKY DIAGNOSIS

Health experts say that it can be really tricky to identify and diagnose, but swelling around the eyes and severe muscle pain are early symptoms. Now, investing in that thermometer doesn't seem like such a big deal, does it?!

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