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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Modern Understanding of a Historical Parasite: Food-Borne Risks of Trichinella from California Bear and Feral Pig Populations

  • Author(s): Sherman, Jamie R.
  • Ernest, Holly B.
  • et al.

Trichinellosis is a zoonotic disease caused by one of the most widely distributed parasite groups in the world, Trichinella. Infection and illness in humans occurs following the consumption of undercooked meat containing larvae. Many cases of trichinellosis go unreported, but symptomatic disease can present with nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, and in severe cases, death. Since the eradication of Trichinella from the commercial swine industry, wildlife meat, specifically black bear and feral pig, has become the main cause of human trichinellosis in the United States. California continues to be home to the majority of these cases. Despite this change in epidemiology, few studies have focused on importance of wildlife as a reservoir of human trichinellosis. The most recently reported prevalence estimate of Trichinella in California black bears was over 30 years ago, in 1977. To our knowledge, there have been no published reports on the prevalence of Trichinella in California feral pigs. Furthermore, human, black bear, and feral pig population growth, coupled with increased urban development, has created an expanding ecological niche for parasite transmission, thus increasing the risk of Trichinella infection for consumers of wildlife meat. Given the lack of contemporary data and knowledge, there is a need to generate estimates of the current burden of Trichinella in California wildlife in order to assess the foodborne risk this potentially lethal parasite poses to the public.

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