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Toxocariasis – General Information

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

Toxocariasis is an infection transmitted from animals to humans (zoonosis) caused by the parasitic roundworms commonly found in the intestine of dogs (Toxocara canis) and cats (T. cati).

How common is Toxocariasis?

Human toxocariasis is widespread and is usually symptom-free. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Toxocariasis?

For most people, an infection with these roundworm larvae causes no symptoms and the parasites die within a few months.

However, some people experience mild symptoms, such as:

  • A cough
  • A high temperature (fever) of 38c (100.4f) or above
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain

In rare cases, the roundworm larvae infect organs such as the liver, lungs, eyes or brain and cause severe symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Wheezing or breathing difficulties
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Blurred or cloudy vision, usually only affecting one eye
  • A very red and painful eye

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Toxocariasis?

The roundworm parasites responsible for toxocariasis (called Toxocara) live in the digestive system of dogs, cats and foxes. The worms produce eggs, which are released in the faeces of infected animals and contaminate soil.

The eggs only become infectious after 10-21 days, so there’s no immediate danger from fresh animal faeces. However, once the eggs are passed into sand or soil, they can survive for many months.

Humans can become infected if contaminated soil gets into their mouth. Once the eggs are inside the human body, they move into the bowel before hatching and releasing larvae (the earliest stage of development). These larvae can travel to most parts of the body.

However, as humans aren’t the normal host for these larvae, they can’t develop beyond this stage to produce eggs. This means that the infection can’t spread between humans.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Toxocariasis?

Anyone can become infected with Toxocara. Young children and owners of dogs or cats have a higher chance of becoming infected.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Toxocariasis diagnosed?

Although the definitive diagnosis is based on detection of Toxocara larvae in tissue samples, obtaining biopsy material containing larvae can be difficult and is usually not necessary. The diagnosis is usually based on clinical features and results of blood tests.

How is Toxocariasis treated?

If you have no symptoms, or only mild symptoms, treatment isn’t usually necessary.

However, you’ll need medication if you have a severe infection affecting your organs. A type of medication called an anthelmintic is used to kill the parasite larvae.

Albendazole is most often used and mebendazole is an alternative.

These medicines don’t usually cause side effects, although some people may experience headaches or stomach pain.

In addition to anthelmintics, steroid medications (corticosteroids) are often given to reduce any inflammation caused by a severe infection.

If toxocariasis has affected the eye, steroid medication is used instead of anthelmintics. Surgery may also be needed – for example, if you develop retinal detachment.

Most people make a full recovery and don’t experience any long-term complications. However, there’s a risk of permanent vision loss if one of the eyes is affected.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Toxocariasis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Toxocariasis:

  • Take your pets to the veterinarian to prevent infection with Toxocara. Your veterinarian can recommend a testing and treatment plan for deworming.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after playing with your pets or other animals, after outdoor activities, and before handling food.
  • Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection.
  • Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet or other animal feces.
  • Clean your pet’s living area at least once a week. Feces should be either buried or bagged and disposed of in the trash. Wash your hands after handling pet waste.
  • Teach children that it is dangerous to eat dirt or soil.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you. Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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