Trichinosis infects child on Ontario farm

Tracey Richardson of the Sun Times reports a Bruce County child has had the extremely rare distinction of acquiring trichinosis from pork — something that was thought to have been eradicated from the province for decades.

The last swine outbreak in Ontario happened in 1977. Until this January, the last human case of trichinosis case in Canada trichinellaoccurred in 1980 and was associated with the consumption of infected domestic pork.

Nowadays, trichinosis is usually confined to meat from wild animals. There was an outbreak in Ontario in 1993 among a couple of dozen people who’d eaten smoked wild boar meat.

Pig farmers and abattoirs must follow strict guidelines and inspections now to prevent outbreaks.

Approximately 18,000 slaughtered pigs are tested annually by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and every three to five years, about 16,000 sows are tested as part of a surveillance program. CFIA inspection staff at federally inspected meat plants enforce meat processing regulations for cooking, curing and freezing pork to ensure the destruction of trichinella larvae, and pig farmers are prohibited from feeding meat and meat byproducts to swine.

The Bruce County case happened in January this year at a Mennonite farm, said Grey Bruce medical officer of health Dr. Hazel Lynn. The farm was non-commercial and the pig was slaughtered and consumed on the farm. No part of the animal ever entered the commercial food supply.

News of the case was mentioned in passing at the public health board’s monthly meeting Friday.

Lynn said the child was diagnosed by an “astute” pediatrician in London, although the child recovered without treatment.

Lynn said when the farmer acquired the piglet, it was free of trichinella. “So it happened between being a tiny piglet and growing up to be slaughtered,” she said. “However their animal husbandry on the farm was pretty old style, so anything left over got fed to the pigs. Now if you cook it all, it’s OK. But also there were rats around, which many barns have, whether or not they’re well looked after, and that’s probably where this pig got it.”