Don’t let raccoons turn your sandbox into a toilet. This could pose a serious risk to young children.
Raccoons are sometimes infected with a parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis. If so, the eggs of the parasite exist in their feces. If children put something in their mouth that has been in contact with raccoon feces, they can ingest the eggs, which can lead to serious and sometimes fatal neurological illness.
Although this disease (known as raccoon roundworm encephalitis) is rare, it is important enough to warrant a public health warning, writes Dr. Kirsten Page (PhD), a scientist at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois in a recent issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Raccoons tend to create latrines that many animals use regularly.
Page and colleagues studied 119 backyards in the suburbs of Chicago. They found that 51 per cent of them had raccoon latrines. The parasite was found in 24 per cent of latrines sampled. “Homeowners with small children should remove latrines as quickly as they are discovered,” they warned. Cover sandboxes and similar spots so that raccoons aren’t tempted to use them as outhouses.