Exploring the medical and scientific background of blood drinking
Investigation and Research Into Sanguinarians
Investigation and Research Into Sanguinarians
Copyright © 2005
by Sarah Mediv
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Blood Borne Diseases of Man and Animal
Many people know that drinking blood is really not the safest thing in the world, but at the same time close their eyes to the reality of just what causes it to be unsafe. A fact I find disturbingly common. For sanguinarians this can be a serious subject, and one that I have found few know that much about. Here, I hope to open the eyes of sanguins to the risks.
Human Blood Risks
AIDS: I would hope that this would be obvious, but I know that as soon as I say that there are those who do not know that AIDS is a blood borne disease. It is a pretty nasty one at that. AIDS is caused by HIV which is a retrovirus. This means that it infects the host cell by injecting its RNA, transcribing it to DNA, and then the DNA incorporates itself into the host DNA. Once incorporated it is EXTREMELY hard to get rid of, since it is then part of your own DNA. There is no known cure for AIDS currently and it is fatal. The virus itself is not fatal, however. What it does is attack the immune system of the infected person so it cannot respond to the virus. By killing the immune system it allows for other diseases to enter the body unhindered, which eventually kills the person. The person can feel perfectly healthy and be harboring the HIV virus. Outward signs do not appear, usually, until it has transformed into a full AIDS case. The difference in HIV and AIDS is that AIDS is when the T-cell (white blood cells in the immune response) drop below a certain level.
Prevention: Since there is no known cure for this disease, the only way to protect yourself is to have your donor regularly tested, as well as yourself. Do not take their word that they are "clean" be sure to see the results before drinking from them. Though it is known that the digestive juices can kill the HIV virus, if you have any small cuts or scratches in your mouth or throat, bleeding gums, or a sore/burnt throat, it is possible to contract the virus before it even reaches your stomach. So, play it safe and don't drink from someone who is infected.
Hepatitis: There are multiple forms of this disease each with letter name designations (Hepatitis A, B, C, etc.).
Hepatitis A: Not blood borne, though does fall under Hepatitis category so I included it here. Infects the liver and causes yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), brown/tea colored urine, diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and stomach pains. (from Hepatitis A fact sheet)
Prevention: Again, testing. Also there is a vaccine for this disease as well as one to stop its effects if found soon enough.
Hepatitis B: Symptoms are: tiredness, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), dark-colored urine, and/or light stool. It is possible to be a carrier of Hepatitis B without ever showing any signs of it, and this is a common occurrence. It can be spread through blood to blood contact, but doesn't have to. If the virus comes in contact with the eyes, mouth or mucus glands it can cause infection as well.(from Hepatitis B fact sheet)
Prevention: TESTING! Also there is a series of vaccines available for this disease which came out recently. It can also be spread through other bodily fluids, so protect your self sexually as well.
Hepatitis C: Can be infected from blood to blood contact. Also present in semen, vaginal fluids tears, and saliva. The most common and easiest way to get it is blood to blood contact. Like AIDS, it can enter the blood stream through tiny cuts and rough or burned places in the mouth. Symptoms are much like those for the other Hepatitis forms.
Prevention: If you or your donor received a blood transfusion prior to 1992 have yourself tested for this disease. Red Cross Screening for this disease was only started in 1992 and so it is possible to have become infected from infected blood. Donors to the Red Cross were at no risk, however. Testing is most important to prevent Drink to Drinker spread of the disease.
Syphilis: Mostly known as a Sexually transmitted disease, it is a blood to blood spreader as well. Caused by a bacteria, unlike the previous diseases. Symptoms include rashes, headaches, sore throat, swollen glands, and large patches of hair loss. it can be spread from mother to child during birth, as well. late stage infection can cause permanent heart, brain, skin and bone damage.
Prevention: For the 50th time, TESTING!! It can also be treated with penicillin or other antibiotics. (from Syphilis Fact Sheet)
Prions: These are mutant protiens that cause "Mad-Cow Disease" (bovine Spongioform Encephalopathy or BSE), Scrapie (BSE in sheep), Crutzfjeld-Jakob Disease (BSE in humans abbreviated CJD, inherited), new variant CJD (abbreviated nvCJD, BSE and Wasting Disease in humans), Wasting Disease (in Elk, Deer, and other wild ungulates (deer-like animals), and Kuru (A form found in mostly cannabalistic societies). Essentially, the protein is injested from contaminated blood or meat, travels to the brain, and mutates the "normal" prion protiens in the brain. As this continues, those mutated protiens, make other mutated protiens and eventually your brain looks like swiss-cheese. Causes neurological problems, forgetfulness, tremors, seizures, and eventually brain death. Thats the bad news, the good news is that BSE has not yet been found in the United States, and that the prion responsible for Scrapie (which IS in the USA) doesn't appear to be able to infect humans. Contamination usually occurs when the animal is being killed, and the butcher passes the knife into neural (brain and spinal cord) tissue. This allows the prions to moves out onto the meat. Prions are EXTREMELY hardy for protiens...they can withstand high heat without loosing potency, freezing, and formaldehyde. For more detailed information, and the disease relation to cannabilism, see the article Prion Diseases.
Prevention: Care. Be very careful. If you live outside the USA, I wouldn't suggest butchers blood, inside the US, beef is all right, I would avoid sheep blood, though. Pig is the best, though, since swine do not seem to be susceptible to the prion protiens (because of this, it is still legal to feed by=products of cows and sheep to pigs, though it is illegal to feed cow and sheep by-products to cows, sheep, and goats). Because of its presence in wildlife, if you get your blood while hunting wild deer, I wouldn't drink the blood and be very careful how you butcher. There is no cure for nvCJD, and it takes awhile for symptoms to appear.
Zoonotic Diseases: Diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans.
Anthrax: Caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Uncommon transmissal, however is possible to contract by drinking infected blood that has been exposed to air. Ingestion would cause gastrointestinal signs: edema of the mouth and throat, gastric ulcers, bloody diarrhea, hemorrhage of the lymph nodes, shock, and death. Fatality rate high. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine
Ascariasis: Caused by a nematode (Roundworm) intestinal parasite. Usually involves fecal contamination of raw meat or blood. In humans there may be no symptoms, or you may note the worms in your stool, vomit up the worms, have a low fever, cough with bloody sputum, wheezing, short breath, skin rash or stomach pain depending on teh life stage and number of worms. Affected Species: Swine, Dogs, Cats
Brucellosis: Caused by multiple types of Brucella bacteria species. Currently regularly tested and vaccinated for in the United States. More widespread in Latin America and the Middle East. Signs include a fluctuating fever, headache, chills, weakness, muscle and joint pain, weight loss, testicular infection in men and abortion in pregnant women. May cause chronic liver disease, heart disease, colitis or meningitis. Fatility rate is fairly low except when the heart muscle is infected. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine, Dogs
Campylobacteriosis: Caused by the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. Infection occurs when fecal-contaminated blood or raw meat is ingested. Bacteria usually resides in the gastrointestinal tract. Most common cause of bacterial dirrhea in humans. Generally self limiting. 0.1% of Campylobacter infections cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disease affecting the nerves and central nervous system. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Birds
Cryptosporidium: Caused by the protozoa Cryptosporidium parvum. Infection occurs when fecal-contaminated blood or raw meat is ingested. Bacteria usually resides in the gastrointestinal tract. it is highly infectious, highly resistant, and there is no 100% successful treatment. Causes a self-limiting diarrhea in most humans, but can be life-threatening or fatal in immunocompromised individuals. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine
Cystercircosis: Caused by Taenia saginata, a tapeworm-type intestinal parasite. Imature forms are incysted into the muscle of cattle. Can infect humans if the meat is undercooked when eaten. Typically causes only mild abdominal signs, however can cause appendicitis from the migrating larvae. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine
Erysipeloid: Caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. Fecal contamination of raw blood or meat can occur at slaughter. Causes arthritis of the fingers, septicemia and/or endocarditis in its systemic form. If infection occurs via the skin, it causes a very itchy rash. Affected species: Swine, Birds
Escherichia coli: Specifically the O157:H7 serotype which causes a watery diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremia syndrome in humans. The Hemolytic-uremic syndrome is characterized by hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia and renal failure. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Deer, Birds
Giardiasis: Caused by the flagellate protozoa Giardia intestinalis/duodenalis. Cattle can serve as a resivour for the protozoa, but transmission from them is less common than by contaminated water or household pets. Causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Cats, Dogs
Influenza: Viral disease. With the recent "Bird Flu" news stories, we should all be aware of this potential for cross-species infection. Affected Species: Swine, Birds
Leptospirosis: Caused by the bacterial spirochete Leptospira interrogans. Most commonly aquired from rats, but cattle can carry the bacteria as well. Transmission by ingestion of urine-contaminated meat or blood. Causes fever and flu-like symptoms in humans, progressing to headaches, muscle pain, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and conjunctival hemorrhage. Some serovars affect the liver and kidney, leading to failure of these organs, lung hemorrhage is also possible. Untreated, the mortality rate is ~20%.Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine, Dogs
Mycobacterium bovis: Caused by Mycobacterium bovis bacterium. Routinely tested for in the US, eliminated from most states. A person with active tuburculosis may have a cought for greater than 3 weeks, chest pain, cough up blood, weakness, weightloss, inappetance, chills, fever, and night sweats. Chest radiographs will show lung lesions. Treatment is available. Affecgted Species: Cattle, Deer
Prion Disease: See Prion Diseases for the most information. Affected Species: Cattle, Deer, Sheep, Elk, Cats, Ferrets
Q-fever: Caused by the ricketsia Coxiella burnetii. Less common in cattle then sheep. Contracted through contamination with fecal or urine matter on raw meats or blood. Extremely infectious. Causes acute fever with weakness, muscle pain, headache, chills and sweats. It can also lead to infection of the lungs, heart, pericardium, liver, nerve lining, or bones. If treated, mortality is less than 1%. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats
Rabies: Viral disease affecting the brain. Virus can be found in saliva, blood, and milk. Only one case of a human living after infection. Transmission typically through contamination of a cut or scratch. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine, Dogs, Cats, Ferrets
Salmonellosis: Multiple salmonella species, however Salmonella typhimurium is the most common contaminant of meat or blood from cattle. Contamination occurs from fecal matter. Causes fever, headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. May cause dehydration and speticemia if not treated. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine, Birds, Reptiles
Tuleremia: Caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. Can be aquired from eating undercooked game meats. Four forms of the disease are seen with ingestion of the organism: Oculoglandular (swollen lymphnodes, photophobia, tearing of the eyes, corneal ulcers), Exudative pharyngeal (swollen lymphnodes and a severe sore throat), Systemic (loose/watery diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, though can vary), and Pneumonic (fever, cough, chest pain, and bloody phlegm). Affected Species: Sheep, Rabbits, Cats
Trichinellosis or Trichinosis: Caused by the parasite Trichinella spiralis. Encysts in the muscle of many different animals. Infestation caused by eating contaminated meat that is undercooked. Larval migration can cause muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis. Affected Species: Deer, Bear, Swine
Yersinia enterocolitica: Important due to the fact Yersinia enterocolitica can continue to replicate even in refrigerator conditions. Causes fever, watery diarrhea, and abdominal pain in humans. Affected Species: Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Swine
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis: Bacterium which can be found in soil and water as well as in animal carriers. Causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever and septicemia in humans. Affected Species: Swine, Birds
Center For Disease Control. Bloodborne Infectious Diseases: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatits C. <http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/bbp/>
Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine. 2008.