scouts-l Mail Archive for February of 2000: Re: Racoon Roundworms
Ed Thompson (thompson@VAX2.WINONA.MSUS.EDU
Fri Feb 04 2000 - 16:21:04 CST
At 08:29 AM 2/4/00 -0600, Mark Morenz wrote:
>I have received information concerning a roundworm carried by raccoons that
>can be very harmful to humans.
>With Scout camps all through the midwest having raccoon populations,
>(sometimes bordering on infestations), I am concerned over the health
Since I have a parasitologist just down the hall from me, I popped in to ask
about this. Here's what she tells me:
This species of roundworms is quite common among raccoons, can be easily
passed to people, and it is particularly nasty if you get them. Roundworm
eggs are passed out in the feces of raccoons (often onto dead, downed wood
or directly onto the soil) and can be picked up on the hands and eaten. The
eggs hatch in the intestine, the larvae enter the blood vessels and migrate
throughout the body. Raccoon roundworms often migrate to the brain and
spinal cord for some reason (most parasites have favorite places to which
they migrate in your body) and have been known to kill people. Similar
scenarios, I might point out, occur for roundworms from other species as well.
A very large majority of raccoon roundworm cases in humans occur in young
children who are still in the stages of putting lots of stuff in their
mouths, in particular eating dirt (hey, I loved dirt as a kid!). The key to
controlling it, then, is to keep your hands from getting/staying
contaminated and to keep the contaminated soil/wood/etc. away from your
mouth - the basics of hygeine we all probably learned in first grade.
Is this cause for panic among Scouters? Absolutely not! One of the fun
realities of life is that no matter how clean we try to be, we live in a
world full of parasites. There are thousands of species of roundworms,
about thirty of which are parasitic to humans. One species migrates into
your eye! To quote from the textbook I use in teaching introductory biology
courses: "a spadeful of garden soil will contain more than a million
(roundworms)". Chances are pretty close to 100% that each of you has had a
roundworm infection at least once in your life. Short of holding camp in a
sterile plastic bubble, if we step out of our front doors we will be exposed
to them. Basic common sense will get us through.
Ed W. Thompson Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Director of Cytotechnology
Winona State University