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|Information from the CDC|
|Michigan DNR fact sheeet|
Caused by: A parasite.
Most common way people catch it: "Dirty" hand touches mouth. Put contaminated object directly into mouth.
Worst-case scenario: Death.
How common in the Northeast? Although the worm is common in raccoons, few people contract the disease.
Most vulnerable groups: Young children.
This disease is caused by a parasite, a roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis. The roundworm larvae cause problems as they travel through the person's muscles and various organs, including the liver, brain, lungs, and eyes. The severity of the infection depends on how many of the parasite's eggs were ingested, and where the larvae migrate. Although serious infections are rare, raccoon roundworm can be fatal in people.
Raccoons are the primary host of this roundworm, which is commonly found in their small intestines. The parasite has also been found in mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, woodchucks, and dogs.
Raccoons shed millions of the microscopic roundworm eggs in their feces. It takes about a month for newly deposited eggs to develop to the infective stage. The eggs can only develop into worms when they're in an animal's body, but the eggs are hardy and may survive for years in soil, sand, or water.
People may encounter the eggs through direct contact with raccoon droppings or by touching a contaminated area or object. If they don't wash their hands, they may later transfer the eggs to their mouths. Small children are particularly vulnerable because they tend to put their hands, and other objects such as bark, wood chips, toys, soil, or even droppings, into their mouths.
Other animals may become infected by eating an infected animal or through contact with the feces of an infected animal.
Symptoms in people may include nausea, skin irritations, tiredness, liver enlargement, loss of coordination and muscle control, blindness, inattentiveness, and coma.
Raccoons rarely show symptoms of the disease but the species that don't usually play host to this worm (such as woodchucks, squirrels, birds) tend to show abnormal behaviors when infested. They'll tilt their heads and have difficulty walking or climbing. They may lose their fear of people, circle, roll on the ground, fall over, lay on their sides and paddle their feet, or fall into a coma.
If someone's been exposed, or even suspects exposure to raccoon roundworm, seek immediate medical care. If the worms can be killed before they migrate through the body, there's a very good chance that the disease will be prevented. But if the condition is not treated early, recovery is less assured. Raccoon roundworm infections are very difficult to diagnose in people.
If you're working in an area that's contaminated with raccoon feces, wear a proper respirator, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and disposable coveralls. Because the eggs are resistant to common disinfectants, the feces and any contaminated materials should be burned. If that's not feasible, double-bag the materials and bury them deeply.
Contaminated clothing can be double-bagged and discarded, or washed in boiling water with bleach. Scrub rubber boots with bleach and a scrub brush. Clean traps before storing, to remove feces while they are fresh. Traps and other equipment that can withstand the heat can be flamed. If that's impractical, clean with boiling water and bleach.
Next disease (Histoplasmosis)
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