Trichinosis, trichinella spiralis

What is trichinosis?

Trichinosis is a food-borne disease that is caused by eating raw or undercooked meats, particularly pork products infested with the larvae of a species of worm called trichinella spiralis. Digestion breaks down the hard outside shell of the larvae, freeing the mature worms. The worms then produce larvae which take up residence in body tissues, especially muscle. Anyone is susceptible, regardless of age or health status. Trichinosis is also called trichinellosis.

What causes trichinosis?

The most common causes of trichinosis are:

  • Eating raw or undercooked pork products
  • Eating improperly stored meats
  • Unclean kitchen utensils used to prepare meats
  • Eating raw or undercooked meat from wild animals, such as boar, bear or walrus, that are infected

What are the symptoms of trichinosis?

Symptoms of trichinosis range from very mild to severe and can include:

Additional symptoms that may develop include:

  • Thirst
  • Profuse sweating
  • Chills
  • Extreme tiredness

In severe cases, trichinosis can cause:

  • Difficulty coordinating movements
  • Inflammation of the heart muscles
  • Difficulty while breathing

These symptoms can last from 5 to 45 days, but they usually begin to appear 10 to 14 days after consuming the infected meat. Milder cases of trichinosis are often mistaken for the flu or other common illnesses. In extreme cases, trichinosis may result in death.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy