Raccoons and Diseases

By Debra Spilar

Raccoons & Diseases….Now that baby season has arrived, we need to talk about diseases. In particular, raccoons and Baylisascaris. It is an intestinal roundworm commonly found in raccoons that can infect a variety of other animals, including humans.

The infection rate in raccoons are very high, being found in around 70% of adult raccoons and 90% of juvenile raccoons. In raccoons there are usually no clinical or pathological signs observed, they are carriers of the disease.

Raccoons become infected in one of two ways: Raccoons, especially young ones become infected by accidental ingestion of these eggs during foraging, feeding and grooming. Adult raccoons get infected by eating rodents, rabbits, and birds infected with the larvae of Baylisascaris.

The worms live and develop to maturity in the small intestinal track of the raccoon, where it will reproduce. An adult worm can measure 5-8 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. They are tan-white in color, cylindrical and taper at both ends. A female worm can produce between 115,000–179,000 eggs per day.

Infected raccoons shed the eggs (millions daily) in their feces. Under adequate temperature and moist conditions, a larvae will develop within an excreted egg and can be infective (2nd stage larvae) to other animals, humans and soil in 11-14 days. The eggs are resistant to most environmental conditions and with adequate moisture, can survive for years.

Infection in humans is rarely diagnosed. However people can become infected when they accidentally ingest the eggs that are in soil, water, or on objects that have been contaminated with raccoon feces. The severity of symptoms depends on the amount of eggs ingested. The infective dose of Baylisascaris is estimated to be 5,000 eggs or less.

Wildlife including dogs, may become infected by eating a smaller animal that has been infected with Baylisascaris.

To prevent infection you should clean up the infected area very carefully. Care should be taken to avoid contaminating hands and clothes by use of gloves, gowns and facemasks. Always wash hands well with soap and running water, to help further reduce possible infection. Boiling water, steam-cleaning, boiling Lysol, flaming or fire are highly effective means to decontaminate items or areas. Contaminated areas can also be cleaned with peroxiguard, or Vircon powder mix. Common chemical disinfectants are not effective against the eggs. Disinfectants like 20% bleach will wash away the eggs but do not kill them.

So when you find a baby raccoon, always use gloves to handle it. Don’t keep it or raise it yourself as you run the risk of spreading the disease to your family or pets. Call a wildlife rehabber like Procyon Wildlife. 905-729-0033. We have the knowledge and experience to help them without spreading diseases.

Raccoons and Diseases
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