Note: This resource pertains to roundworms as a human public health risk. If you wish to learn more about roundworms and your pet, click here.
- Roundworms (aka ascarids) are intestinal parasites that are very common in cats, dogs and raccoons, but can also cause a number of health problems in humans! While each animal species has their own specific roundworm, some ascarids are capable of infecting multiple species (e.x. toxascaris leonina affects dogs and cats, while baylisascaris affects raccoons and dogs – both of these can infect humans!).
- Cats, dogs and raccoons shed these parasites in their feces, thereby contaminating the environment. When inadvertently ingested by humans, these eggs can hatch and migrate anywhere in the body, leading to a condition known as “visceral larval migrans.” Depending on the path and end destination of the parasite, infections can cause permanent tissue damage. The symptoms therefore depend on the location of the affected organs/tissues and may include partial loss of vision, fever, coughing, asthma, pneumonia and more! For example, the parasite may migrate to the eye, die and cause an inflammatory reaction leading to blindness. Children are at a particularly high risk for acquiring this parasite, especially when they engage in pica (consumption of dirt).
- Practice good personal hygiene (e.x. hand washing)
- Have your pets regularly dewormed by the veterinarian!
- Avoid potentially contaminated environments, such as open sand boxes
- Teach your children that it is dangerous to eat dirt!
- Discourage raccoons from living in and around your home