Trichinosis is caused by the entry of the Trichinella spiralis parasite (roundworm larvae) that is usually found on raw or undercooked pork products or wild animal meat. When a person eats meat of an infected animal, the cysts open in the intestines and grow into adult roundworms and the roundworms produce other worms that move through the wall into the bloodstream. These worms invade the muscle tissues, lungs and brains. The food-borne infection is not contagious from one human to another.
The symptoms of Trichinosis are usually seen in two stages. The initial stage symptoms include abdominal discomfort (pain or diarrhea) and nausea. The second stage is marked by muscle pain, joint pain, fever, chills, cramps, vomiting and itching. In cases that are more serious there may be eye inflammation and hemorrhages under fingernails.
There are no specific tests to indicate the infection in the intestine during the first stage. In fact, most people do not even realize they require clinical diagnosis.
During the second stage of the illness, blood tests like creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase to check the enzymes that increase in the blood when muscle cells are damaged is carried out. Additionally, the eosinophils, a white blood cell count, which tends to increase when there is a parasitic infection is checked.
Other tests like latex agglutination, immunofluoresence and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays are conducted to detect antibodies that are developed by the immune system against the parasites. The best way to detect the disease is by getting a muscle biopsy that can indicate larvae in the muscle tissue.
In most mild cases, there is no treatment required, as the symptoms tend to subside over time. However, in more serious cases, Mintezol is used to eliminate the worms and Vermox is used to treat the larvae in the intestinal tract. In some cases, even Albenza is used. To treat inflammation of infected tissues, Prednisone is used in a combination with Mebendazole.
For those with minor symptoms, the prognosis is excellent. For those with major symptoms, the prognosis is good with recovery from most symptoms over time. However, for a very small minority of patients, brain disease complications may arise and last over many years. An almost negligible percentage of patients die due to Trichinosis.
The disease can be prevented by ensuring meat consumed is cooked under safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperatures of the meat. As per the USDA guidelines, meat must be prepared to at least 63 degrees Centigrade for whole cuts, 71 degrees Centigrade for ground meat and 74 degrees Centigrade for poultry.
Medical Expert Consultation Fee: Patients with mild cases do not require any special care. However, other may require the services of their general practitioner, surgeons for muscle biopsy and cardiologist.
Medicine Cost: The cost of medicines required would vary case to case.
Hospital Care: Some patients may require basic supportive therapies like oxygen, intravenous fluids, cardiac monitoring and neurologic monitoring.