What is Toxocariasis?
Toxocariasis is a type of a parasitic infection which is commonly spread to humans from infected dogs and cats. The parasite responsible for this disease is known as Toxocara and is commonly seen in dogs and cars. It is a type of a roundworm.
Any individual who is always in close contact with dogs and cats, and other animals especially those who work in farms are at an increased risk for developing Toxocariasis.
In the United States only around 14% of people have antibodies against this disease which means there are about 80% of people out there who are vulnerable to Toxocariasis.
What are the Causes of Toxocariasis?
As stated, the main cause of Toxocariasis is the parasite Toxocara which is found mainly in cats and dogs. An infected dog or a cat will have eggs of this parasite in its feces and if for any reason an individual comes in contact with contaminated feces either through swallowing soil or by any other means then he or she will get infected with Toxocariasis. In some extremely rare cases, some people have been infected with Toxocariasis by eating undercooked meat which contained eggs of the parasite.
What are the Symptoms of Toxocariasis?
In many cases, Toxocariasis may be asymptomatic whereas in some cases an individual with this condition will tend to have following symptoms listed below.
Vision loss which is usually caused when the parasite infects the eye and causes a condition called ocular Toxocariasis. There might also be inflammation of the eye and retinal damage along with it.
In case if the parasite affects the various organs of the body such as the liver or the central nervous system then the patient may experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, wheezing, and abdominal pain.
In majority of the cases, the symptoms of Toxocariasis are benign and not serious. Children are at most risk for developing this condition as they tend to play in the dirt which may be infected with the feces of an infected cat or a dog.
How is Toxocariasis Treated?
Antiparasitic medications are good enough to treat Toxocariasis, especially the form in which various organs of the body is affected. The treatment for the ocular form of Toxocariasis is a bit difficult and requires measures to protect the eye from further damage along with getting rid of the parasite to treat Toxocariasis. The best way to avoid getting infected from Toxocariasis is to prevent it. Some of the easy ways to prevent Toxocariasis are:
- Take the pets to the veterinary doctor every once in a while for a complete checkup to see if the pet is infected or not.
- Wash the hands thoroughly after playing with the pet or in the playground in the dirt before eating anything.
- Do not allow children to play in areas where there is a lot of animal dander and feces.
- Clean the area where the pet lives every once in a while so as to keep the area disinfected and prevent any occurrences of Toxocariasis.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Toxocariasis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxocariasis/index.html
- British Medical Journal. (2020). Toxocariasis. Retrieved from https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-us/735
- Merck Manual Professional Version. (2021). Toxocariasis. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/nematodes-roundworms/toxocariasis