After Eating Black Bear Meat, Family Is Infected With Brain Worm Disease

By: May Man Published: May 26, 2024

Six family members contracted brain worms after consuming black bear meat harvested by one of their relatives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In May 2022, nine extended family members gathered in South Dakota and enjoyed grilled kabobs made from vegetables and black bear meat, which had been harvested in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

Undercooked Bear Meat

This information was detailed in a report published by the CDC on May 23 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Bear in natural habitat

Source: Freepik

After consuming some of the bear meat, the family members realized it was undercooked and attempted to cook it further, according to the report by CDC and state health officials.

29-Year-Old Man Hospitalized

Six days later, a 29-year-old man from the group was hospitalized with several health symptoms.

doctor holding stethoscope

Source: Freepik

These include fever, severe muscle pain, eye swelling, and an elevated white blood cell count (eosinophils), which supports the immune system.

Albendazole Used To Treat Parasitic Roundworms

During a second hospitalization, healthcare providers learned about the bear meat consumption and treated the man with albendazole.

medicine capsules

Source: Freepik

Albendazole is a medication used to treat trichinellosis, a disease caused by parasitic roundworms.

Some Freeze-Resistant Worms Immune

Despite being frozen, which kills many Trichinella worms, some freeze-resistant worms can survive.

microscopic pathogens

Source: Freepik

When infected meat is ingested, larvae can develop into more parasites.

Worms Can Enter The Heart And Brain

These worms can travel through the body to the heart and brain, potentially causing inflammation of these organs, forming cysts, and leading to seizures.

A very sick man is pictured sleeping on a hospital bed

Source: Freepik

Symptoms of trichinellosis can include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, according to the CDC.


Symptoms May Not Show

Some infected individuals may not show any symptoms, as infectious disease specialist Dr. Céline Gounder noted in an interview with “CBS Mornings”.

male adult with health problem laying in bed

Source: Freepik

She mentioned that typically, the immune system walls off the parasites, causing them to calcify. CBS News was the first to report on the CDC’s findings.


Six Individuals Infected

An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health revealed that a total of six people from the gathering were infected—four who ate the meat and two who only ate vegetables.

close-up view of pharmacist's hand taking medicine box from shelf

Source: Freepik

The infected individuals, ranging in age from 12 to 62, were from Minnesota, Arizona, and South Dakota.


24% Of Black Bears In Canada And Alaska Potentially Carrying Roundworms

Two additional hospitalized individuals were also treated with albendazole, according to the CDC.

adult bear and infant bear in nature

Source: Freepik

Black bears are common carriers of roundworms, with up to 24% of black bears in Canada and Alaska potentially being infected, as per the CDC.


Freeze-Resistant Roundworms Are Rare

The bear meat in this case tested positive for Trichinella nativa, a freeze-resistant roundworm species.

3d representation of microscopic pathogens

Source: Freepik

Despite this, cases of trichinellosis are rare. From January 2016 to December 2022, the CDC recorded only seven outbreaks, comprising 35 probable and confirmed cases.


Bear Meat Should Be Fully Cooked Before Consumption

In most of these outbreaks, bear meat was the confirmed or suspected source of infection.

mercury thermometer

Source: Freepik

To prevent infection, bear meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


Doctors Discovered Dead Worm In Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s Brain

Additionally, to avoid cross-contamination, raw meat should be handled and prepared separately from other foods.

Robert. F Kennedy Jr

Source: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia

Brain worms have recently gained attention following a report by The New York Times that years ago, doctors discovered a dead worm in the brain of Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.