Washington state toddler contracts suspected rare roundworm illness linked to raccoon excrement

Health officials with Public Health – Seattle & King County suspect a toddler may have contracted a very rare disease linked to the ingestion of roundworm eggs, which can found in dirt and other substances contaminated by raccoon fecal matter.

Only 29 cases of the illness, Baylisascariasis, have been reported in the U.S. since 1973. If officials confirm the infection in the toddler, it will be the first such case ever reported in Washington state. The CDC is currently testing samples of the child's blood and spinal fluid. The results are expected to return in two weeks.

Once ingested, the roundworm larvae can hatch inside the body and spread. The illness can be severe and even fatal if the roundworms enter a person's brain, organs or eyes. Young children are at the greatest risk of infection because they are more likely to put contaminated materials, like dirt, in their mouths. Symptoms vary based upon the number of eggs ingested, but can include nausea, loss of coordination and blindness.

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"To prevent infection, wash your hands after working or playing outdoors and avoid areas that are frequented by raccoons, especially 'raccoon latrines,'" wrote Meredith Li-Vollmer, a risk communications specialist with the county health department.

To learn more about Baylisascariasis, click here.

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Top 10 infection control stories, May 1-5

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