Raccoons are well known for spreading rabies, but it another, and much lesser known raccoon related medical condition that has caught the interest of many researchers recently. Raccoons are known for spreading a parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis. This parasite is more commonly known as raccoon roundworm. Experts have traditionally believed that anyone who contracted raccoon roundworm would experience extreme physical symptoms, and often death. However, only recently have researchers learned that the parasitic infection is often asymptomatic.
Researchers from the University of Georgia have found several individuals that have contracted raccoon roundworm and have not shown any symptoms, and were also completely unaware that a parasite was infecting their bodies. The individuals from the study that tested positive for the parasite all spent considerable amounts of time in the presence of raccoons. Some infected test subjects worked in the service of wildlife preservation. According to Michael Yabsley, a professor at the university of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, not all infections lead to the severe symptoms that previously diagnosed patients were told they would experience.
This roundworm can spread from raccoons to dogs or other wildlife, and humans as well obviously. Animals often become infected with the parasite by coming in contact with raccoon feces that contain the parasites eggs, or by eating a roundworm infected animal. Human infections are rare, but children can sometimes come into contact with animal waste while exploring outdoors. Children contract the parasite more commonly than adults since many children enjoy playing in sandboxes where animal waste may be present, and children place their hands in their mouths frequently.
From 1973 to 2010 there were only twenty two cases of raccoon roundworm reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may not sound like a number to be afraid of, but the CDC has also reported that seven new cases have appeared within the United States during the past two years.
If you have children do you feel more concerned about their chances of contracting the infection since they contract the parasite more commonly?