A Northern Delicacy and Streptococcus suis

4-8Laab refers to a Northern Thai delicacy, a spicy salad made from minced raw meat and eaten at special occasions, parties, and festivals. It’s primary ingredient? Meat. Pork, beef, chicken, buffalo, venison, or even fish are possible, but pork is certainly the most popular. Once chopped, the meat is mashedwith blood and boiled intestine, and then finished off with a garnish of smoked chilies and spices.

According to Dr. Sophon Mekhathon, Director of the Department of Disease Control, the weatherduring the rainy season leads to high levels of dampness in Thai farms, especially pigs farms, wherethe animals can transmitpotentially disabling and life-threatening bacteria.

In those pigs who lackany symptoms, the bacteria can be found in just the respiratory system, specifically the tonsils, throat and sinuses. However in those pigs who are in fact symptomatic, the bacteria is found throughout the circulatory system as well.

Reports found that in the past year between January 1 and December 14, there have been a total of 218 cases of this disease in 17 different provinces, as well as 15 deaths, with the majority of cases having occurred in the North and Northeast.

The Streptococcus suisbacteria enters the body through open wounds, the membranes of the eye, or through eating undercooked or raw pork. After the bacteria enters the body, it damages the internal organs and nervous system causing inflammation in the lining of the brain and heart. More importantly, it inflames and damages the nerves of the ear, causing lifelong deafness as well as bleeding under the skin.

Three to five days after initial infection, patients will experience symptoms, most commonlyhigh fever, severe headache, debilitating dizziness, vomiting, an inability to speak, deafness, upset stomach, muscle soreness, breathlessness, and eventual death,should the infection spread to the blood. The fatality rate hovers around 5 to 20 percent. Because most people view the disease as something that only happens to others, they act without caution,thinking, “Well, just once or twice is fine.” But even once is enough to kill.

So should you choose to eat pork or other raw foods, you should make sure to always cook it well, and don’t ever tell yourself the words, “Well, just once or twice…”