Parasite Warning for South Carolinians

South Carolina’s Department of Natural resources is warning residents of a potential parasite, previously believed linked only with venison. Charles Ruth, the Statewide Deer/Turkey project supervisor for the Wildlife Section of the state DNR says many people have called the department asking about the likelihood of being exposed to toxoplasmosis. He says although the disease was previously mentioned only in conjunction with venison, it can be found in domestic meats as well, including beef, pork, and sheep.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by parasite, and it is one of the most common diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Authorities estimate that 30 to 60 percent of adults in the United States have been exposed to the parasite, but the organism rarely causes disease. Although most human infections are silent, there may be brief flu-like symptoms in some cases. The greatest risk of real illness in humans would likely be in someone whose immune system is already compromised or women who are pregnant. The DNR says herbivorous animals such as cows and white-tailed deer can be infected with the toxoplasmosis organism from contaminated soil or water. Therefore, humans can become infected if the meat is not properly handled. This is also true for common domestic meats as well. Sportsmen can minimize their risks of toxoplasmosis infection by following these guidelines with venison: 1) do not handle fresh carcasses or meat with wounds on their hands; 2) freeze all meat before cooking because freezing kills the majority of the parasites; and 3) cook venison thoroughly (160ºF).