Yep, we said, “Killer Raccoon Poop” and boy do we mean it. The actual name of this parasite is “Baylisascaris Procyonis” (good luck pronouncing it) and it can be found in 80% of raccoon’s.
Raccoon’s are known for their buffet style eating habits in our garbage cans and have made quite a mess in some cases. Although considered to be cute in pictures, they have a dirty little secret which can cause serious harm or even death to you or animals that get near raccoon droppings.
Now, we understand that you do not leave your homes and go out searching for droppings (feces) to pick up, throw, or eat…it’s just not on your list of things to do, but what about your dogs, cats, or children? The way this parasite works is it starts out inside the gut of a raccoon and lays eggs inside the intestines. An adult worm can produce roughly between 115,000 – 179,000 eggs every day. Once the raccoon releases feces, the eggs go along for the ride and are now spread to the surrounding soil.
There are three routes that can occur once the feces are in the open soil. The first thing that could happen is a smaller animal (bird, rabbit, or even a cat or dog) can eat the feces, infected soil, or grass. Once this happens, the acid in the animal’s stomach will make contact with the eggs and cause them to hatch. Traveling through the body of the animal, the larva makes their way into the organs and blood steam, eating their way through the body. It can reach the central nervous system in some cases, this parasite is extremely dangerous if not treated and after only three days of ingestion it can be too late to treat.
The second route that can be taken is that another raccoon will come and eat the feces or surrounding area, but due to most raccoons being immune to this; the raccoon will be unharmed and the life cycle of the parasite continues in that raccoon.
Finally, the third path the parasite can travel is within a human being. Although the chance of being contaminated with this virus is very slim, there is still cause for concern. Since 1980, there have only been around 13 cases of humans coming into contact with this parasite and have led to 5 of them being fatal and the rest ending in neurological damage.
There are a few things you can do to prevent and hopefully treat this:
-Keep an eye on young children and what they play with and/or eat from outside (especially if you live in a wooded area where this is more commonly found).
-“Albendezol” is a powerful anti-parasitic drug, which starves the worms to death by impairing the worm’s intestines. However, you do need to make sure you treat this quickly before it has time to reach the central nervous system.
So next time your mom and dad yell “don’t eat that”, listen to them. And mom and dad, if you don’t already yell that to your children, you might want to start.