Six family members infected with brain worms after chowing down on bear meat

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn't the only one making the news for surviving a ghastly bout of worms in his brain. Six family members who chowed down on a feast of bear meat kabobs in South Dakota became infected with brain worms — and that includes three of the diners who avoided the meat and only ate their vegetables.

One of the first victims in the group to notice something was wrong was a 29-year-old man, who experienced fevers, extreme muscle aches, swollen eyes, and various other symptoms. He was hospitalized several times in less than three weeks, until doctors finally diagnosed him with trichinellosis. From CBS News:

Following his second hospitalization, the man told doctors that he had days earlier attended a family gathering in South Dakota, and that one of the meals they shared included kabobs made from black bear meat that "had been harvested by one of the family members in northern Saskatchewan."

The meat had been in a freezer for a month and a half before being thawed out for the meal. The CDC reported that, because the meat was darker in color, it was initially and inadvertently served rare. Family members began eating the kabobs but noted that the meat tasted underdone, so it was recooked and served again. …

Doctors ultimately diagnosed the 29-year-old man with trichinellosis, a roundworm which is rare in humans and usually acquired through the consumption of wild game. Once in a human host, the larvae can then move through the body to muscle tissue and organs, including the brain.

Five other family members were diagnosed with these freeze-resistant worms, including a 12-year-old girl and two other family members who had only eaten the vegetables at the meal. In all, three family members were hospitalized, and were treated with albendazole, which the Mayo Clinic says keeps the worms from absorbing sugar "so that the worm loses energy and dies."

While six people — including the girl who only ate veggies — became infected at the dinner party, three others who avoided the meat did not contract the worms.

According to the CDC, freezing game meats "may not effectively kill all worms because some worm species that infect wild game animals are freeze-resistant." The CDC also says "the best way to prevent trichinellosis is to cook meat to safe temperatures," which is at least 165 degrees.

Of course, there is an even better way to prevent worms: avoid game meat altogether unless you've got a very experienced cook in the kitchen.