Raccoon latrines are a major source of eggs of the raccoon roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis. Accidental ingestion of large numbers of eggs from these latrines can lead to a disease known as visceral larval migrans. The most severe forms of this condition are known as ocular or neural larval migrans, which are damage to the eyes or brain/spinal cord (respectively) due to the roundworm larvae migrating through the body tissues. The disease is very rare, but the consequences are very severe. Previous Worms & Germs posts have discussed Baylisascaris and larval migrans in more detail.
Raccoons tend to form latrines – areas where they will return to deposit stool repeatedly. In some ways this is handy, because it means you generally don’t find raccoon stool all over the place. On the other hand, the latrines themselves contain large amounts of stool, and along with that are large numbers of Baylisascaris eggs, not to mention bacteria and sometimes fungi. So it is important to recognized latrines, particularly when they occur near your house, garden, or anywhere children may play. Raccoons like to used flat, raised areas for latrines, such as roofs, decks, woodpiles, fallen logs or even large rocks, just to name a few.
Cleaning up raccoon latrines warrants some special precautions in order to avoid swallowing the roundworm eggs and to avoid spreading them around. Recommendations include:
- Wear rubber gloves, and always wash your hands thoroughly when you are done.
- Wear disposable overboots, or rubber boots that can be scrubbed and disinfected.
- Wear an N-95 rated particle mask if you are cleaning up a latrine in an enclosed space, such as an attic or crawl space.
- Thoroughly wash your clothes with soap and hot water when you are done, and dry them completely.
Follow this link for detailed information on how to clean up a raccoon latrine. A few of the more important points about dealing with these latrines include the following:
- Avoid stirring up dust. Misting the area with water first can help with this.
- Double-bag and carefully dispose of any garbage/debris you remove from the area.
- Most chemicals will not kill roundworm eggs. Removing the eggs is usually the best option, but extreme heat will also kill eggs instantly. Flaming contaminated areas can be effective, but contact your local fire department about local regulations and safety precautions before attempting to flame a latrine site.