Raccoons and Roundworms

25 07 2011

Everyone knows raccoons can be troublesome. Their nimble fingers can unlatch garbage cans in order to get to the tasty (?!) treats inside.

If you’ve ever raised chickens, you’ve probably coped with raccoons spending pretty much all their waking hours trying to figure out how to get into the coop.

They find their way into attics and crawl spaces to have their babies—not the type of family that anybody really likes to have living next door.

As if that weren’t bad enough, many raccoons harbor a pretty horrifying parasite. Horrifying to us, anyway. It doesn’t hurt the raccoon, but if the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis gets into a human being, the outcome can be bad.

After infection with this worm, a person may present with skin lesions or other severe organ or tissue damage. Some young children have died from this infection—primarily due to ingesting lots of eggs.

Now I would never eat a roundworm! Not on purpose, I wouldn’t, and I probably wouldn’t even do it by accident. But a child might. The parasite lives in the raccoon’s intestines, and its eggs end up coming out in the raccoon’s feces. The eggs can stay viable for months or years, so kids who happen to play in the dirt where raccoons have pooped can get the eggs onto their hands and then into their mouths. Then the eggs hatch, and the larvae begin their migration.

If raccoons are making themselves comfortable near your house, you may want to get serious about evicting them (your local animal control agency may trap them for you), and safely remediate any soil they may have contaminated.

Don’t attract them by letting them have access to garbage cans, bird feeders, or other food sources.

Watch their amusing antics on YouTube, not in your yard.

By Ms. Health Department

Image courtesy of MSVG


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