Sharing with others is considered a noble human quality. Our pets, however, particularly dogs and cats, may inadvertently share their parasitic burden with humans. The lowly roundworm larvae, when ingested by humans is toxocariasis – which is a major cause of blindness and may provoke rheumatic, neurologic or asthmatic symptoms.
Humans become infected orally with worm eggs (containing larvae) found in soil, fresh vegetables, and improperly cooked chicken, pork, rabbit or sheep. Most adults are asymptomatic. But in some, particularly the immunocompromised, symptoms can occur as a result of toxocara larvae migrating through the body (internal organs and brain).
Puppies are often the most heavily infected with egg-laying worms. One roundworm can lay 200,000 eggs per day. These eggs must incubate for several weeks in humid weather before they become infective. Flies can spread the eggs from pet feces to other surfaces.
Evidence of human infection in the USA is about 15% with most cases in young people. Infections can be reduced with routine worming of pets, disposal of pet feces and hand washing after playing outside. Washing vegetables and cooking meat properly are also critical.
The providers at Women’s Health Care are able to counsel on ways to maximize health with pet ownership. Please call 503-435-2020 to schedule an appointment.
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