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Suburban Wildlife: Part 3 of 4 – Raccoon Roundworm, West Nile Virus and Ringworm

There are many zoonotic diseases present within our environment, just as there are many disease pathogens from humans and pets – vaccinating our pets can help to keep them safe.

 

After reading my blogs, you probably know by now, that a zoonotic disease or condition is one that is transmitted to humans from an infected lower form of vertebrate. Most of these diseases run their course, or are treated using over-the-counter medications — but there are a few that can be fatal, if left untreated. 

Raccoon Roundworm

What is Raccoon Roundworm?

The worm is shed in the feces of infected raccoons (raccoons often defecate using a designated latrine) and may be harmful if ingested.

Our household pets (dog and cats) also carry a form of round worm which can cause this condition which can be dangerous to humans. Having your pets tested and treated for round worm is an important preventative measure.

The incubation period for raccoon roundworm is usually one to four weeks – it varies because the ingested eggs need to hatch and the larvae must then penetrate the mucosa and migrate to organs within the body through the liver. The severity of the symptoms is dependent upon the number of eggs ingested and the route of their migration – and finally what organs and bodily systems are affected. If few eggs are ingested, the symptoms may be non-specific or none at all. In the rare instance when a larger number of larvae are present, symptoms can include nausea, tiredness, liver enlargement, loss of coordination and muscle control.

There is no medication that is proven to be totally effective against round worm; however, Albendazole has been used effectively in some cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why Raccoon Roundworm rarely contracted by humans?

Roundworm can only be contracted through the oral-fecal route; you need to literally eat infected feces. This is why, of the few documented cases, most have been diagnosed in very young children. For that reason, it’s important to keep sandboxes clear of any feces, and to avoid any latrines in areas where children play. Also, if you participate in the removal of raccoons from your attic for example – take precautions when cleaning feces and wear protective gear (face mask, gloves and long sleeves).

West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus?

A virus usually spread by mosquitos that have been feeding on infected birds and then bite humans and animals, spreading the condition.

The incubations period is between three and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people will exhibit no symptoms at all. A few people will experience fever, nausea, headache and body aches, swollen lymph glands, and possibly a rash on the chest, stomach and back. For these people symptoms may last a few days to a few weeks. Rarely, people come down with severe WNV and experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Symptoms in these severe cases may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Severe cases will require hospitalization.

There is no specific treatment for the WNV, and the majority of the people who become infected will be fine once the illness runs its course. If however, you develop severe symptoms, or any symptoms if you are pregnant or a nursing mom, you should seek medical advice from your physician. Severe cases of WNV require hospitalization to maintain fluids levels and sometimes to assist with
breathing.

How can you protect yourself against West Nile Virus?

Mosquitos are most active at dusk and dawn – be sure to have repellent handy and wear long sleeves and long pants during these times. 

Make sure screens are secure and windows are closed. 

Change pet water frequently (and bird baths), and empty baby pools when not in use and stand them on their sides.

It is also important to make sure free standing water (rain water in flower pots) is discarded. Mosquitos use standing water to lay their eggs.

Ringworm

What is Ringworm?

Referred to as Dermatophytosis, Ringworm is caused by a fungus. In humans, the disease is a superficial infection of the keratinized parts of the body (hair, skin and nails). Ringworm is very closely related to another fungus with a familiar name – Athletes Foot.

The lesions will appear within one to three weeks after exposure depending upon the site of the infection. They are often annular and the borders are reddish in color and sometimes raised. However, you could experience slightly raised expanding rings of red scaly skin on your trunk or face, or a round flat patch of itchy skin.

You can use over-the-counter medication to treat the condition. However, if the condition covers a large part of the body or does not diminish using the over-the-counter medications, you may need to consult your physician for an oral or topical prescription medication.

How can you prevent Ringworm?

Ringworm is highly contagious and can be contracted through direct contact with another human, an animal (including your pet) and sometimes by touching an object (including soil), if an infected animal or human has recently had contact with the object.

Similar to Athletes Foot, good personal hygiene is extremely important to prevent the spreading of Ringworm.

When visiting the health club or sauna, be sure to wear foot coverings and sit on your towel instead of directly on the benches provided.

Hot tubs – can be warm and inviting to you…and to Ringworm. Be sure to keep hot tubs and pools clean.

If your pet contracts Ringworm, use caution. Wash well, or better yet, wear gloves until the condition is no longer present. Contact your pet’s veterinarian with questions and concerns.

To learn more about these zoonotic diseases, you can visit www.ct.gov  (search “zoonotic diseases”), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Special thanks to the Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (CWRA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for content included in this blog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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