Raccoon Roundworm Infection Signs and Symptoms

racoon (Image from Wikimedia Commons)Some people consider the raccoon as pest because it destroys human property. This mammal is also a public health concern because it carries a pathogenic type of roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis. This roundworm can be transferred to human and cause various diseases. This article discusses the life cycle of B. procyonis, how it is transmitted to human, and what are the signs, symptoms, and treatments of B. procyonis infection in human.

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What is Baylisascaris procyonis?

baylisascaris procyonis (image from sccgov.org)Adult roundworms are usually found in the small intestines of raccoons. They survive by absorbing nutrients in the small intestines. They are tan-white in color, cylindrical, and tapering at both ends. They measure 9-22 cm in length and 1 cm in thickness. They produce thousands or millions of microscopic eggs that would be shed on the feces of raccoons. In the environment, the eggs are in dormant stage and they can persist for many years waiting for a definitive host. The eggs are resistant to disinfectants so it is very hard to get rid of them. Burning is considered the best method of destroying the eggs.

Eggs are transferred to young raccoons by being in contact to contaminated feces and by eating animals infected with roundworms. Young raccoons are usually the ones (not the adults) who show the symptoms of Baylisascaris infection.

When the eggs entered the body, larvae emerge which would then migrate via the bloodstream through muscles, lungs, liver and different organs.

Other than raccoons and humans, other hosts of B. procyonis are woodchucks, squirrels, porcupines, rabbits, and some species of ground-foraging birds.

How raccoon roundworms are transmitted to humans?

Children are the most susceptible to roundworm infections because they are frequently in contact with contaminated soil and objects in the house vicinity. The hand-mouth contact is the most common route of roundworm infection.

When eggs reach the gut, larvae emerge and then travel through the bloodstream towards the muscles, lungs, liver, heart, brain, spinal cord, and various body organs. The larvae will undergo encystment or encapsulation in the organs mentioned.

What are the signs and symptoms of raccoon roundworm infection?

One symptom of roundworm infection is skin irritation due to migrating larvae in the skin. Encysted larvae in the muscle can cause infection and inflammation.

Migrating larvae to the brain and spinal cord will cause extensive and irreversible damage resulting to severe neurological symptoms including imbalance (incoordination), tremors, poor reflexes, paralysis, and others. Serious damage to the brain and spinal cord is fatal.

Travelling larvae can also damage the eye resulting to loss of eyesight.

Too many larvae in the liver can cause liver enlargement. When the liver is enlarged, it may not perform its functions properly. The liver is one of the most important organs in the body so any damage to it will jeopardize ones health.

What is the treatment for raccoon roundworm infection?

Worming can eradicate adult roundworms in the intestine but there is no proven treatment to alleviate the illnesses caused by migrating larvae.

How to prevent roundworm infection?

Minimizing exposure to raccoon feces is a good measure to prevent contact with roundworm eggs. Raccoon feces should be disposed properly. Objects contaminated with raccoon feces should be burnt or properly disposed.

Raccoons should be excluded from areas of human inhabitation so that they would not shed off roundworm eggs in the environment especially in the soil and water.

Raccoons are not advised as pets because of the possibility that they are infected with roundworms.

Good hygiene like proper hand washing is highly recommended to prevent roundworm infection. Parents should teach their kids the habit of hand washing especially after playing outdoors. [ad#afterpost]