Vet warns of raccoon roundworm

Abbotsford veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Borgmann says the public should be aware of a potential health hazard carried by raccoons in the area.

  • Feb. 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Abbotsford veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Borgmann said the public should be aware of a potential health hazard carried by raccoons in the area.

She has learned that most of the raccoons in the Abbotsford area carry a roundworm that thrives in their digestive system and causes the masked bandits almost no trouble.

However, the worms are a serious hazard to pets, other animals and people.

“We are an inappropriate host,” said Borgmann, explaining that the worms may migrate through the bodies of pets and humans rather than staying in the intestines.

The worms can cause serious lung problems and fatal brain swelling. She said there are cases in the U.S. where children have died and had severe lung reactions.

She said pets are most likely to pick up the worms, and can become sick. She recently saw an opossum that was killed by the worms in Abbotsford.

Borgmann explained that raccoons are clean animals that latrine, going back to the same location to defecate. Their latrines can sometimes be found in garden sheds, children’s playhouses and even on the roofs of houses. In nature, they are often found between logs or rocks, and on stumps. Raccoons tend to prefer areas that are above the ground, and flat surfaces. Latrines are unlikely to be in the middle of a lawn.

These latrines would be dangerous for pets or people to come into contact with. They can contain worm eggs, which develop into an infectious form in two to four weeks, and can survive in soil for years.

She said the simple answer is to dispose of the latrines if they are found, and to keep pets on a regular monthly deworming program, which will clean all parasites from their intestinal tract.

The website recommends the following when cleaning a raccoon latrine:

• Be sure to avoid direct contact with the feces.

• Wear disposable gloves made of rubber, plastic, or latex. Also wear disposable booties or rubber boots that can be scrubbed and left outside.

• Wear a N95-rated dust mask available at hardware stores or safety supply stores. The masks will help to prevent accidental ingestion of eggs or inhalation of fungal spores or dust.

• Lightly spray the latrine area with water or bleach to reduce the amount of dust coming from the latrine pile.

• Shovel feces and any other contaminated material into a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag.

• Disinfect hard, smooth surfaces (including shovel blades) with boiling water.

• Thoroughly launder clothing in hot water and detergent.