Rinella on Trichinella

By Clay Newcomb

“This past spring I was up hunting black bears in the Alaska Range with former Navy Seal officer Rorke Denver and he killed a nice six-foot-six black bear.” Rinella said. “We built a little fire, cut some willow forks and willow sticks and started threading on some bear kabobs. We were cooking this bear and it was raining and it was hard to get it hot. We were in a hurry, it was time to go and I called it – “Ya, it’s ok to eat this.””  Rinella recalls. “It is so poorly cooked that I’m sorting out what I think is too rare and what is cooked enough and I eat it. Six people all eat some of these little squares of bear.” In short, all six of the guys that ate the bear meat got infected with Trichinosis.  

Rinella is a powerful spokesman for hunters and the “eat what you kill” movement in North America.  To hunters, this might be old news as we’ve been eating wild game since before it was cool, but the wider, non-hunting community is now starting to catch on to the genius of the idea.  Rinella has eaten just about every type of wild game in North America and is known for cooking the meat over an open fire shortly after the kill.

Rinella says, “90% of trichinosis cases in the US come from black bear meat.  For a decade now I’ve talked to my viewers and readers about the importance of cooking bear meat properly and it’s really embarrassing.”  He continued on about the life cycle of trichinella, “Larve is in the meat in a calcified cyst, the only thing that can liberate the cyst is stomach acid. They breed in your stomach, get in your blood stream and burrow in your muscle tissue. It takes nine days for the medicine to take effect.”

Trichinosis is characterized by high, persistent fevers, muscle aches, diarrhea, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.  Symptoms can begin to appear within seven days, but may not show up until eight weeks after contraction of the parasite.

Trichnella is a roundworm parasite that is found in numerous types of wild animals including fox, skunk, opossum, raccoon, wolves, rats and bears. Trichinella is mostly known to be found in swine, but has for the most part been eradicated from domestic stock in the North America in the last 30 years. Today, around 90% of the cases of Trichinosis are contracted from eating black bear meat. In Bear Hunting Magazine we encourage eating bear meat, utilizing the fat and all the usable parts of a bear. Trichinosis is easily prevented by simply cooking it properly. The USDA suggests cooking meat to at least 160-degrees to kill Trichinella. Most of our food is cooked much hotter than this, and the parasite is actually killed instantly at 140 degrees. If the meat is brown, and not any shade of pink, it’s safe. Trichinosis is neither fatal nor serious and is easily treatable. Keep on eating your bear meat  - just cook it.

In the 1940s, over 500 cases of Trichinella per year were recorded. Today fewer than 50 cases per year are reported in the United States – congrats, Steve on making the stats. It ranks among some of the rarest diseases known in modern medicine.