Trichinellosis outbreak in Alaska and prevention

Trichinellosis infection used to be more prevalent in United State and other countries where ingestion of undercooked or raw meat is common.  The number of cases decreased beginning in the mid-20th century because of legislation prohibiting the feeding of raw-meat garbage to hogs, commercial and home freezing of pork, and public education of the danger of eating raw or undercooked pork product.


Tichinellosis is a parasitic disease caused by roundworm of Trichinella type often in its larvae form. The cyst of the parasite is what allows the infection and the life cycle to proceed. Once the trichinella cysts pass through the stomach and stomach acid will dissolves the hard covering of the cysts, allowing the worm to pass into the small intestine. Then they will be able to reproduce and lay eggs that develop into immature worms. These warm will have the ability to travel through the arteries and into muscle, and there, they will curl up and return to the original cyst formation. Common symptoms of the infect will include but limited to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, facial or eye swelling, aching joints and muscle pain, depending on the location where the parasite accumulate.

In July 7, 2017, CNN reported emerging case of Trichinellosis in Alaska due to ingesting walrus meat. Many residents of coastal communities in the northern and western Alaska have an ongoing culture of consume walrus and other marine mammals. This tradition is critical to Alaskan resident’s life due to the nutrition and economic stability of walrus meat. The first recent outbreak occurred in 2016, when five coastal villagers got infected with Trichinellosis due to consumption of medium rare walrus meat. In 2017, five more villagers were diagnosed with similar symptoms.

Current diagnosis of Tichinellosis was conducted through antibody blood test. Dr. Daniel Eiras, assistant professor of infectious disease at NYU langone Medical Center did not recommend the use of antibody blood test for Tichinellosis, because it does not identify type of parasitic worm and result in false negative.


I think parasitic disease such as Trichinellosis can be easily prevented, and governmental official should reinforce health regulation to prevent further and more infections. Since walrus hunting and eating is a cultural phenomenon in the local area, government should educate the local population of Trichinellosis and allow them to make informed decision. Parasites can be killed through cooking and not by freezing, drying, or smoking. When we explain the dangerous and the risk of consuming raw walrus meat to the local population then they will be more reluctant to consume raw meat and reduce the possibility of getting Trichinellosis. Further trichinella and human interaction could also increase the chance of this parasite to jump host, which made human infection more likely to occur.





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