Raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) is a parasite that causes severe neurological problems in infected hosts. There have been numerous cases of infections in humans in the United States over the past several years, including southern states like Florida and Georgia.
How Raccoon Roundworm is Transmitted
An adult female worm can produce 150,000 eggs a day. Which means, that a raccoon could be infected with hundreds of adult worms, resulting in millions of eggs being shed in its feces daily. When raccoons defecate in communal sites known as latrines, the eggs can survive for many years.
The eggs that are released from the raccoon’s body become infectious in two to four weeks. Each time a raccoon eats an infectious egg, the eggs develop into larvae in the intestine, become adults, and begin the cycle over again. But, if any other animal eats an infectious roundworm egg, the parasites start to migrate through the tissues inside of the body, usually invading the eyes and brain. Another way the roundworm life cycle begins is when a raccoon feeds on a dead animal that was infected.
How Can Roundworm Affect Humans?
Because raccoons live amongst people in urban and suburban areas, they leave feces in yards beneath trees, in kid’s sandboxes, and on decks and patios. When people work or play in contaminated areas, they are susceptible to ingesting raccoon roundworm. Young children who put their hands into their mouths are at a higher risk as well as those who are commonly near wild animals such as hunters, taxidermists, and nuisance wildlife removal professionals.
When humans ingest infective roundworm eggs, the larvae hatch in the intestine, traveling through the organs and muscles. Infected humans may feel symptoms which include nausea, enlarged liver, coordination loss, muscle loss, blindness, and coma.
Although human infections are rare, it’s necessary to prevent the spreading of raccoon roundworm. Some things you can do include:
- Avoid feeding wildlife
- Wash your hands after working in your yard
- Keep an eye on young children to ensure they aren’t putting their hands in the mouth
- Wear protective gear when cleaning up animal feces
- Burn or bury any raccoon feces you collect
Rely on the Professionals
If you are having issues with raccoons on your property, contact the Critter Control® of Tampa. Not only can these nuisance animals cause significant damage to your home or business, but they also pose a health risk. For more information or to receive a free estimate, call us today at 813-948-0870.