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It's very rare to contract raccoon roundworm from raccoon poop in your attic or house. Raccoon feces can contain several diseases that people can contract, the worst of which is raccoon roundworm. However, it's not very common. I've never had a problem. I have cleaned well over 100 attics that contain raccoon feces. I wear a Tyvek suit, latex cloves, a HEPA respirator mask, and I remove the feces by hand, plus the soiled insulation, and bag it in plastic bags. I then fog the attic with a special cleaner called Bac-Azap, which helps decontaminate. You can try this yourself at your own risk, or hire a local company in your area off of my professionals directory.
Here's an email that I got on the subject:
Dear David, I think I should thank you for the valuable information on your website, but I'm not 100% sure, as you will see. My email is a bit wordy, but I've tried to make it mildly amusing in the telling of the story...
A few hours ago I was cutting a hole in the third floor ceiling of my 100+ yo Victorian (House) trying to locate the source of a leak. (A roofer and myself had been in the attic while it rained already and could not see the leak- it is in an area where we can get no closer than 10 feet from it, and there are various structures blocking the view.) I first wondered what the horrible stench was as my saw blade heated up with friction while cutting through the plaster and lathe. It was so bad I switched to a hand saw to minimize the heat, even if it was much slower. Eventually I cut away a small rectangle and pulled it down, seeing dark brown objects along with the broken plaster and cut lathe. Noting they looked like dried feces, and I thought too large for a squirrel, I assumed it was from the raccoon squatters (they never paid rent) I had in the attic some months ago. (More on this as an addendum). I took some comfort in the knowledge that to catch Hanta Virus Acute Respiratory Syndrome one needs fresh, not dried, urine. But to "play it safe" I searched the web for "dried feces raccoon diseases" and found your web site among the first listed, where I read:
As stated above, the droppings of raccoons can contain raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis & B. columnaris). This parasitic worm can and does infect humans. The egg spores in the raccoon droppings are light and can become airborne, and people can breathe them in and become infected. Infection of humans can lead to larval parasite migration to the central nervous system. These egg spores can live for years as dry pods. This is a very dangerous to humans, especially children, and a much more important and realistic threat than rabies.
OK, so now what am I supposed to do? (In addition to being an annoyed question in a Jay Leno script, I do have serious questions. I happen to be an MD, but not an expert in zoonoses)
I was not standing immediately below the hole, was not wearing gloves or a mask, and actually picked up a "specimen" with my bare hand before I figured out what it must have been. As mentioned in your article, I did not eat lunch without washing my hands, but washed my arms up to the elbow with anti-bacterial liquid soap- twice. The stuff fell onto a carpeted floor, and most was vacuumed up with a shop-vac (with a filter bag inside).
So, specific questions if you can give any guidance (see note re liability below, if concerned):
1. Do I assume I've been exposed, or can I take a specimen of the feces to be checked (by county/state authorities? by Vet school at Univ of Penn across town?)
2. If I assume I've been exposed (or tests show I was) should I get any testing, such as titers of antibodies to racoon roundworm ASAP for a baseline and again in a certain period of time? Or do I do nothing except make sure my own doc keeps "raccoon roundworm infection" in his differential diagnosis list if I get ill in the future??
3. What about the safety of the carpeted area where the feces fell? It is a place where children play (or have played anyway).
4. About the attic clean-out selection- I know feces and urine were deposited directly upon plaster and lathe. To remove any contaminated material would mean to rip out the ceilings of all rooms on the third floor. How necessary is the cleaning if future visitors to the attic dress with precautions? Should the attic be "gassed"?
I am assuming there are no set WHO or CDC guidelines for this as there are for an Ebola virus exposure (I am acquainted with some folks who encountered exactly that a few years ago in Uganda), so I'm trying to get a sense of how much effort to take concerning my own health and that of others. I am not asking for an opinion that you will be held legally responsible for, I'm asking for your educated opinion as to what you would tell a friend given the same circumstances. If you know of medical authorities who could give better advice I would love to learn who they are and how to reach them.
Thank you for your kind consideration of my questions,
Mike, Philadelphia, PA
Addendum about raccoon presence (Brief version)-
Last summer a young raccoon fell into a third floor closet through an access panel to the attic. This was confirmed when city/county animal control came to see what the animal was making noise in the closet. In addition to capturing the young raccoon, an adult, presumably the mother, raccoon was seen observing from the attic through the open access panel.
For whatever benefit, I threw numerous mothballs into the attic area, used several cans of insect fogger directed through the open access, and placed ammonia-soaked rags on the shelf of the closet as well. Within a day or two I no longer heard evidence of creatures in the attic. Whether they left because of my activities or the mother decided it was a dangerous place to raise a family, as one had already been haulled away, I do not know. A hole under a soffet was found and assumed to be the entry way. This was closed a few weeks after the last of animal activity was heard.
We do have rabid raccoons here in Philly, but there was nothing observed to suggest this particular adult and family were infected.
I also got an email about the concern of raccoon roundworm
More in-detail how-to raccoon removal articles:
Information about raccoon trapping
- analysis and methods for how to trap.
Information about how to keep raccoons away
- prevention techniques.
Information about how to catch a raccoon
- remove one stuck in the house.
Information about raccoon repellent
- analysis of types and effectiveness.
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