Baltic grey seal found carrying trichinella
A grey seal hunted in the Gulf of Bothnia was found carrying Trichinella in spring 2010. This parasite is a zoonotic roundworm infecting both animals and humans that lives as larva in the muscles of the host. Infections from Trichinella in humans may cause serious disease.
The sample analyzed belonged to samples collected by seal hunters for a joint control project carried out by Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute RKTL. This is the first time that Trichinella has been found in seal meat from Finnish waters. Since 2008, Evira has analyzed 169 gray seals and 59 Baltic ringed seals for Trichinella. All ringed seals have been negative for Trichinella. Worldwide, infection from Trichinella has been found in a number of seal species such as ringed seals, bearded seals and hooded seals. Previously infections have been established in Arctic seas.
The grey seal was found to carry the parasite Trichinella nativa. Four Trichinella species occur among Finnish wild animals, T. nativa being the most common. It is a species adapted to a cold climate and tolerates well freezing. Although freezing the meat does not destroy the larvae of this species, thorough heating of the meat kills any species of Trichinella. Thus, cooking the meat is extremely important, albeit Trichinella is rare in Baltic seals. Seal meat intended for public consumption must always pass meat inspection and the associated examination for Trichinella before delivering meat for sale.
Trichinella is widespread among Finnish wild terrestrial mammals and particularly in red foxes, raccoon dogs, and lynxes. Infection often is acquired via eating raw or badly cooked meat containing Trichinella larvae. Infections among the people are very rare in Finland.
Researcher Marja Isomursu, Evira, t. 02077 24910, firstname.lastname@example.org (game diseases)
Senior Inspector Leena Oivanen, Evira, t. 02077 24272, email@example.com (meat control)
Researcher Mervi Kunnasranta, RKTL, t. 020575 1696, firstname.lastname@example.org (game research)