Should I be worried about this cut? / How common is infection from handling raw meat?

I guess a disclaimer, for starters:
I am not trying to get medical help here, or use advice given here instead of seeing a doctor. So don’t bother giving me the “the SD is no replacement for medical attention…” speech. I am fully prepared to go to the doctor if need be. This is more of curiosity, but thanks for your concern.

I was just cooking on the grill, and I got some frozen hamburger patties out of the freezer. I was trying to separate them using a knife (they were frozen together). The patty finally split, but the knife went through the meat and then into my finger. Not a cut that requires stitches, but no paper cut either. It bled a pretty fair amount.

So, does frozen meat have the same health concerns that raw, bloody meat has? Is it likely that this is going to be a problem for my finger? Should I be concerned about it? Or is it likely that the cut will just heal as if the meat was not involved?

IANAD, but if the wound bled like you say it did, and the meat was frozen, you should be OK. Put a little Neosporin on the cut, cover it, and keep it clean and dry (except for the Neosporin, of course).


MsRobyn’s suggestions should be your basic procedure for cuts anyway. Because it was meat, even if it was frozen and had no liquid juices, I would be especially alert to signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, discharges (especially pus), etc. See a physician if any of that happens. And next time, be more careful about always cutting away from you.

You DID throw the meat away, didn’t you?

::Slaps self for missing the obvious symptoms.::

Okay, if you experience the following symptoms see a physician: (got this from
[li]Diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours[/li][li]Vomiting lasting longer than 12 hours[/li][li]Blood in the stool[/li][li]Fever[/li][li]Vomiting and diarrhea that are so intense that severe muscle cramping occurs[/li][li]An inability to keep down any liquids at all for 12 hours.[/li][li]Any sign of botulism.[/li][/ul]
Botulism symptoms are not like those of ordinary food poisoning. Instead of stomach symptoms associated with other types of food poisoning, botulism causes toxic effects to the muscles and the nervous system.
Generally, victims experience symptoms 12-36 hours after eating, although symptoms have started as long as 96 hours after an exposure. The effects of botulism include blurred or double vision, dilated pupils, droopy eyelids that are difficult to open, dry, sore mouth and throat, a weak grip, and muscle weakness. Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing and speaking, difficult breathing, major muscle weakness and paralysis.
(from here)

Thanks for the info, people.

MsR, I did wash it really well and used Bacitricin (sp?) on it. (It’s kind of like Neosporin.)

Guin, no I din’t throw it away, why would I? I cooked it and ate it.

Derelth, I don’t have any of those symptoms you pointed out. I’ll keep an eye out for anyof them, though. However, "The effects of botulism include blurred or double vision, dilated pupils, droopy eyelids that are difficult to open, dry, sore mouth and throat, a weak grip, and muscle weakness. "

I would know the difference between Botulism and being drunk how…? :wink:

I mean, if you bled all over it…not a very appetizing picture…
Sorry if I sound a bit cranky-I have a cold, which makes me even more of a bitch than usual.

By and large, infection of a cut or a sore from handling meat is only an issue if you’re dealing with either wild animals (especially if you’re skinning/gutting them) or if you work in a slaughterhouse or with commercial meat/fish preparation processing. And that’s still pretty rare (and involves esoteric bugs that would make an infectious diseases specialist get very excited).

Things like bloody diarrhea occur with oral ingestion of contaminated meat/beef, not via the skin.

Botulism occurs only if there’s preformed toxin around. For this to happen, the right circumstances must be present (contaminated food in air-tight (i.e. oxygen-poor) container). And, the route of ingestion is oral, not through the skin.

Did you put your cut finger in your mouth (a common relex)? As stated earlier, the mouth is almost as dirty, bacteriologically speaking, as the anus.

Karl, you can’t be too careful. Knowing the signs of food poisoning is good anyway, even if you aren’t going to get most of them through an opening in the skin.

Good observation. :slight_smile: As botulism toxins attack the nervous system, the disease does have some of the same effects as alcohol. If you get to feeling drunk after that can of veggies or piece of iffy meat, however, a trip to the ER should be in your immediate future. With a designated driver, of course. BTW, botulism toxins can be used as a muscle relaxant, or so I’ve heard.

Guin, only a few drops on the patty. Rinsed it off, then fully cooked it. If thats the craziest thing I do this year, I think I’ll be OK. Hope you feel better, BTW.

Karl, interesting info. No, I didn’t put my finger in my mouth. I was already over the kitchen sink, so I just rinsed it with cold water for a while, then put pressure on till it stopped bleeding.

and Derelth, if I can trust my logic (which has never failed me yet!) then next time I’m out of the silly sauce I can just set a steak in the sun for several hours and then eat it? Thanks for the info. :wink: And not to worry, I would never drive myself to the hospital…I’m a charter member of MABD – mothers against botulized driving.

Anyway, I cut myself about 7 hours ago now. It’s a little bruised and swollen, but I think that’s just because I jammed it pretty hard with the knife. I’ll keep an eye on it and if things get any worse I’ll head to the clinic.

I wouldn’t try it, mouthbreather. Botulism ends with paralysis and death as the toxins make your nervous system nonfunctional.

(I know you were joking. This is a service to all those morons who might not pick up on your smilie.)

IIRC, microdoses can be used as a rather permanent muscle relaxant–they kill the nerves that trigger the muscle contractions. At least, that’s how it’s used in wrinkle treatments. Microdoses can also be used to paralyze sweat glands in people who have some ailment (the name of which escapes me) that causes truly excessive sweating.

If you had got an infection you’d know by now. You probably bled it out, if there was anything in the meat. How do your feet & mouth feel? :slight_smile:

Oh, I got the impression you totally doused the meat…okay…never mind.

The answers would be different if the meat in question had been chicken. Somehow, salmonella has gotten to be a routine thing among chickens, and in some places the chances of a particular chicken being contaminated are as high as one in five. Proper cooking (no pink) makes the meat safe to eat, but handling raw chicken with an open cut on your hands could be unwise.

–Nott, on your life

You are only going to get a skin infection from raw meat if the meat harbors an organism that infects skin.

Salmonella does not infect skin (it infects intestines).

C. botulinum would be a rare cause of skin infections and it would be extremely unusual for frozen hamburger to harbor C. botulinum.

In general, the things that cause diarrhea don’t cause skin infections.

KG is correct, you only need to worry if you are butchering whole amimals or dealing with game. Frozen hamburger from Kroger is unlikely to harbor anything that is going to give you a skin infection.

Although mouths are, indeed, full of bacteria, I wouldn’t worry about getting infected as a result of sucking or licking a cut.

I would very much appreciate it if someone could give me some evidence showing that putting bacitracin or Neosporin on a clean cut reduces the chances that it will become infected.

The reason it’s a common reflex is because saliva is a natural antiseptic. I still wouldn’t recommend putting a cut finger in your mouth, after all modern antiseptics are a lot better than saliva, but the reflex isn’t as stupid a reaction as it’s often made out to be.

Whether you’re handling meat or not, you should always clean cuts with antiseptic - even your skin has a large population of bacteria, and if you’ve cut yourself it’s almost certain that some of them will have entered the wound.

“Whether you’re handling meat or not, you should always clean cuts with antiseptic.”

Antiseptics can do more damage than good. Clean cuts (such as most cuts one gets from clean knives while one is preparing food) can just be washed under plenty of running water. They are unlikely to get infected. Dirty cuts might possibly benefit from an antiseptic but only if it doesn’t damage tissue (i.e., doesn’t sting). Hibiclens (chlorhexidine gluconate) and Betadine (povidone iodine) are generally OK but alcohol, Merthiolate (thimerosal), Mercurochrome (merbromin), tincture of iodine, etc. are BAD.

Why is that?

Antiseptics that can damage tissue (e.g. alcohol poured on broken skin) have the same effect as cautery with a branding iron (you’ve undoubtedly seen that in the movies). They definitely kill germs but they also leave you with a bunch of dead tissue. Dead tissue has no defenses; it will rot. Rotting flesh is a source of bacteria that will infect healthy tissue. To cure an infection, you have to get rid of any dead tissue. You can hire a surgeon or you can use maggots or whatever, but you DO NOT want any dead tissue around. So when you have a clean wound such as yours, made with a clean knife on a clean hand, you just want to put the healthy tissue on one side of the cut as close as possible to the healthy tissue on the other side and leave it alone. If there is minimal dead tissue and the wound is really clean, and if it is left undisturbed, it will heel “by first intention” just like a surgical wound, without infection, very fast, and with a minimal scar. If it is dirty or there is a significant amount of dead tissue, it will heel “by second intention” which takes longer and leaves a bigger scar.