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Alaska Beat

'Medium rare' bear dishes up severe trichinosis to Alaskan

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published October 26, 2012

According to Anchorage Daily News, a Nikiski, Alaska, man has contracted a serious case of the parasitic disease trichinosis after eating undercooked black bear meat.

In early summer, Sean Sullivan shot a black bear that was in the process of breaking into his remote cabin east of McGrath. After reporting the shooting to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, he butchered the animal. Later, Sullivan cooked some of the bear meat to "something a little more than medium rare" and ate it.

Six weeks later he fell ill suddenly and severely, with flu-like symptoms, sensitivity to noise, and hallucinations centering on snowmachine repair.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sullivan's is the fifth case of trichinosis in Alaska this year, the highest number since 2002, when there were seven. Alaska, whose residents eat a great deal of wild game, is the leading contributor to the nationwide total, which averages fewer than 20 cases per year.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, trichinosis is caused by consumption of raw or undercooked pork or game meat (such as bear, walrus, fox, rat and lion) that has been infected with the larvae of a roundworm. The most common symptoms include nausea, heartburn, abdominal discomfort, cramping, fever, dyspepsia and diarrhea.

Trichinosis is easy to avoid. Meat that could be infected should be cooked to at least 160 degrees at the thickest part.

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