Toxocariasis

Toxocariasis, larvae of Toxocara canis,common roundworm, dogs, cats,children, pets, worming
Infection with the larvae of Toxocara canis (the common roundworm of dogs and cats). Children between age one and four who eat dirt are at particular risk for this disease. Older children and adults in households with an infected younger child may show evidence of light infection.

Cause
Ingesting the eggs that are often found in soil leads to the spread of tiny larvae throughout the body. In the United States dogs are often infected with worms which are passed to them as pups before birth or while nursing. Adult worms pass eggs in the dogs’ feces, which then may find their way into soil or sandboxes. These eggs can remain viable for many weeks and even months. When a child eats soil or sand containing these eggs, the larvae hatch in the child’s small intestine, penetrating the intestinal wall and migrating throughout the body. After some time, the larvae in the child will die. It is also possible to be infected by eating unwashed vegetables grown in contaminated soil. However, humans cannot pass the infection from one to another.

Symptoms
Most people have no signs of the infestation, and there is a long incubation period. Children who swallow large numbers of worms may be sick with breathing problems, enlarged liver, fever, anemia, fatigue, skin rash, and eye problems.

Diagnosis
An abnormal blood count with a high number of a certain type of white blood cell and antibodies suggests a diagnosis of toxocariasis.

Complication
If the larvae migrate to the liver, lungs, or abdomen, they can cause an enlarged liver, PNEUMONIA, and stomach pain. They may reach a child’s eyes and damage the retina. Symptoms of complications include breathing problems, rash, and fever.

Treatment
There is no specific drug treatment that will cure the infestation. The disease is usually self-limiting even without treatment. In severe cases, two drugs may treat symptoms: thiabendazole or diethylcarbamazine. Steroids have helped some people with heart or nervous system problems.

Prevention
Worming of pets can help prevent the spread of this disease. All pets at age three weeks should be dewormed, followed by a deworming every two weeks until the pet has had three treatments. They should be wormed every six months thereafter.
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