The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease


Trichinosis is caused by the larvae of the roundworm (a helminth), which live in contaminated meat. If people eat contaminated meat that has not been cooked long enough, the larvae can enter the intestine. Over several weeks, the larvae mature into adults and can spread into tissues throughout the body. Trichinosis is more common in rural areas around the world.

Within 2 to 7 days after ingesting the larvae, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and overall malaise can occur. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much contaminated meat was consumed. In a mild case, an individual may not experience any symptoms. If the worms have entered the bloodstream, more acute symptoms, such as high fever, headache, pink eye, and muscle pain and tenderness, may appear.

For a mild case, no treatment may be warranted. The symptoms will resolve on their own, although people may notice intermittent pain, fatigue, and diarrhea for months or even years later. For a more severe case, anti-parasite medication may be used. This treatment is more beneficial early on, before the roundworm has had a chance to spread. Pain relievers may be prescribed to alleviate muscle pain. Sometimes dead or dying larvae release chemicals in the muscles, causing inflammation. In those instances, corticosteroids may be prescribed.

Make sure all meat is cooked to a temperature of 170°F (77°C). Trichinosis is common in pork, so take extra care when cooking this kind of meat. Also, make sure meat grinders and other kitchen tools are kept clean.


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What do you know about infectious disease?

Which are larger?

  • Correct!

    Bacteria are 10 to 100 times larger than viruses.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Bacteria are 10 to 100 times larger than viruses.

Infectious Disease Defined


The process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures are becoming integrated through a global network of trade, migration, communication, and the spread of new technology.

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