"Trichina Spiralis."


Europe is afflicted at present in more ways than one. Hardly had the cholera disappeared when the cattle plague broke out, and now we hear that a still more alarming epidemic has seized upon the hogs. While the cattle in England are dying by the thousand, the hogs in Germany have been attacked by a species of worm called "trichina spiralis" which are so small that their presence can only be detected by the most careful microscopic examination. Already hundreds of people who had partaken of the pork thus tainted have died, and thousands are lying dangerously ill in consequence of it. Thus, in the Prussian village of Hedersleben, 350 persons have been taken sick and 90 have died, out of a population of 1,800. In each one of these cases the origin of the illness has been traced to the same source. In Brunswick, Magdeburg, and other districts, a number of similar instances have occurred, and the panic seems to have extended all over the country. At Berlin the hospitals are filled with patients thus afflicted, and the physicians daily report new cases in their private practice. Pork is, therefore, at a discount, and though in front of the butchers' stalls large placards announce that the meat has been microscopically examined, few can be induced to buy the dangerous article. At the same time, there are not wanting skeptics who pronounce the whole thing a humbug. At a public meeting convened recently at Berlin to discuss this question, which was attended by the magistrates and leading physicians, a veterinary surgeon, named Urban, declared that these worms had always existed, were entirely harmless, and that the excitement was all nonsense, got up by the press and the medical faculty. This assertion greatly exasperated the audience, and a member of the press, who was present, immediately challenged the skeptic to eat some of the sausage made out of the diseased meat, which the latter declined. But the cry "eat! eat!" becoming quite threatening, he finally consented to the ordeal, and ate a large piece.   1866 

The strangest part of the affair is, that in spite of all these solemn facts and the testimony of the most distinguished medical authorities, there should still remain any doubt about the poisonous properties of the meat attacked by trichina spiralis. Yet such seems to be the case, for the German papers teem with arguments on both sides of the question.   

As far as we can learn, these worms seem to exist only in the lean portion of the flesh, not in the fat. In the human body they chiefly attack the muscles, and cause, if not death itself, paralysis. Under the microscope their heads present the same formation as those of the tape-worm.  

A Cincinnati paper says:-Good people who dearly love a roast of pork, a slice of ham, or a savory sausage, have flattered themselves that trichina were indigenous to Germany, and would confine their labors to the domesticated and demoralized offspring of the wild boar of the Thuringian forests. Not a bit of it. Since the German physicians have made such valuable use of their microscopes, others have been engaged in the inspections of pork, and the result is the announcement that trichina have developed themselves in the swine of America. The Chicago papers inform us that a load of pork put on sale at Peoria, Illinois, last week, was examined microscopically, and two of the hogs were alive with trichina. Dressed hogs examined at Dixon, were also discovered to be inhabited by these infinitesimal creatures. The St. Louis papers of Saturday announce the poisoning of two families in that city from eating "diseased pork," though no attempt appears to have been made to discover the character of the disease.   

There are two ways of keeping trichina out of the human stomach. Buy a microscope or leave off eating pork. If you are as fond of roast pig as Charles Lamb was, and will have it, keep a microscope in your kitchen. It will have to play an important part in domestic economy. Engage no cook who is not as familiar with a microscope as with a waffle-ring. Avoid sausage-German sausage, (imported particularly). Yield not to the temptation of Bologna, and eschew Westphalia ham. Eat sparingly of pork, though you know who raised it, and are positive that it was corn-fed. A microscope would not be objectionable by the side of your plate, to inspect the morsel that tantalizes you on the fork's end. It will be a slow process, this inspection by mouthful, but it will be safe.

March 20, 1866 UrSe, ARSH 122