This entry was posted by Friday, 15 May, 2009
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by ckurle
From MSNBC/AP : Two kids in New York City were infected by roundworms from raccoon droppings. One of them was blinded and the other suffered brain damage.  The spokesperson for the NYC Department of Health suggested proper measures for avoiding contact with the poop and safely disposing of it.  She said that the problem, which can be fatal, is also very rare. According to her, less than 30 cases have been reported in the medical literature. She seemed to handle things well. Informative, reassuring, responsible.
But Science Ain’t So Bad checked with the CDC which, four years ago, published a fact sheet on the infection (called Baysascari). It is a reminder that scientific matters are subject to human interpretation.
According to the CDC fact sheet, the disease, which can lead to coma and blindness, is FAIRLY COMMON in raccoons. It goes on to say, however, that “it is believed that cases are mistakenly diagnosed as other infections or go undiagnosed.” So it’s a fairly common disease in the raccoon population but it is often missed in humans. That’s not quite as reassuring, is it?
Science Ain’t So Bad respectfully wonders if the NYC Health Department needs to find a better balance between reassuring its citizens and alerting them to the presence of a dangerous and often missed disease. And maybe other communities may want to raise their level or vigilance. Certainly no need to panic. But there may be something here. Let’s have a look at it. OK? Raccoons are amazing creatures and probably deserve to be better understood.
Let’s start with their feces.

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