Trichinosis (Trichinellosis)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the prognosis for patients with trichinosis?

For those who have minor or no symptoms, the prognosis is excellent with no complications. For the minority of patients who develop complications, the prognosis is still good as most will recover and the symptoms will decrease and eventually disappear. However, for a few patients, the prognosis is less clear as complications, especially those with the brain disease, may persist for many years. It is extremely rare for patients with trichinosis die from the disease.

What are the risk factors for getting trichinosis?

The major risk factor for contracting trichinosis is eating raw or undercooked pork or wild game such as bear meat, wild boar meat, or other carnivore meat. The risk of developing infection is related to the amount of larvae ingested. About 10 larvae per gram of meat (muscle) ingested result in a mild infection, about 50-500 result in a moderate infection, while over 1,000 result in a severe infection. Consequently, reducing or eliminating the number of larvae in infected meat reduces both the risk and severity of infection. This is accomplished by cooking meat to a uniform temperature of 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher for at least a few minutes to kill encysted larvae. Freeze pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5 F (-15 C). However, this freezing technique for wild game meat may not be effective, as Trichinella in wild animals is usually not as susceptible to freeze killing. Other cooking methods such as microwaving, smoking, or salting meat often fail to kill the encysted larvae and so the risk of getting trichinosis from meat treated by these methods is increased.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015

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