Although toxocariasis is a relatively rare condition, the consequences are potentially very serious for your child.
What Is It?
Toxocariasis is a parasite carried in the feces of dogs and cats. This parasitic worm toxocara canis can cause blindness when transmitted to humans. Young children are particularly susceptible because they tend to play in the dirt or in sand pits where dogs and cats may defecate. The eggs of this roundworm are in animal feces and if your child touches dog doo and then rubs her face, the egg can get in the body and infect your child. Even though it seems a small thing and nothing to worry about, this worm can affect the eye. If your child's eye gets infected and you don't take your child to the doctor straight away she could go blind.
Who Gets It?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) performed a recent study that says toxocariasis is much more common than previously thought. Around 14% of Americans overall are believed to be infected with the parasite, with as many as 23% of people living in poverty being susceptible. It seems that people who live in inner-city poorer neighborhoods, rural areas, have pets, or have recently come from tropical countries are more likely to have the disease.
Around 700 people a year in the United States are affected seriously enough with this form of the disease known as ocular larva migrans (OLM) to have a permanent partial loss of vision. Another form of the disease, VLM (Visceral larva migrans) can cause swelling of the body's organs or central nervous system. Symptoms include fever, coughing, asthma attacks and pneumonia. However in most cases, especially in older children or adults there are almost no symptoms and the disease is not serious.
· If you have pets you should make sure that they are properly and regularly wormed and given their jabs. This will help prevent you and your children being infected
· Make sure that you clean your pets living area regularly
· Wear plastic gloves when you bag your pets feces before disposing of it in the trash
· Make sure that you and your children always wash their hands properly with soap and water after playing with dogs and cats
· Make sure that the playground sandpit is dog and feces free
· Keep your sandbox covered when not in use to prevent stray animals using it as a toilet
· Don't let your child play where dogs defecate
· Teach your child not to eat dirt or earth
· Teach your children not to touch their faces after playing in the dirt
· Get your children into the habit of always washing their hands after playing outside
These type of infections are called zoonotic or zoonoses infections and can be identified through a blood test. The parasite can enter the body through a scratch and can migrate to the eye. If you suspect your child has been touching dog feces, wash the area thoroughly and then if there is any sign of infection take your child straight away to your family physician or even the Emergency Room. Make sure you say what has happened and ask for a checkup and blood test. The usual treatment is with antibiotics but in serious cases where the parasite has infected the eye, known as optical cellulosis, the eye might even need to be removed.