KUSA - Dr. John Torres from Premier Urgent Care answers your questions every week. If you have a medical question for Dr. John, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to have Ask Dr. John in the subject line.
Dr. Torres, After the regularly scheduled visit by our pest control guy (my wife is afraid of spiders!) he told her that we have a "raccoon latrine" beside the house. I then went to the CDC website and read their guidance. I followed their guidelines to the letter. This parasite sounds dangerous, especially to young children. Are there any symptoms of an infection and what is the treatment for it? By the way, I live in a subdivision in the middle of town ... not in the woods or adjacent to open space. Thank you, Gary
Now that raccoons are out and about more, especially in urban areas, experts are getting increasingly concerned about things they might leave behind. Most animals go to the bathroom just about anywhere as they travel about. Raccoons on the other hand tend to go in the same spot time after time. This location is what's known as a "raccoon latrine". The issue is that raccoons also leave behind a parasite that can become dangerous for anyone working or playing near one of these latrines, especially children. Raccoon feces can contain a parasite known as a baylisascaris round worm. This parasite enters our system when someone touches raccoon feces then the either their mouth or food they put into their mouth. Once it enters the digestive tract this round worm can spread throughout the rest of the body. It becomes more dangerous if it affects the brain, spinal cord or eye. Cleaning up these latrines needs to be done in a very specific way to make sure whoever is doing the cleaning doesn't get infected with this parasite. The CDC has a web site which details the safest way to do this. It generally entails making sure the person cleaning up the latrine doesn't touch the waste. That means using boots, gloves, N95 masks and a shovel. It's best to put the feces in a garbage bag and dispose of this way. Afterwards remember not to bring the boots inside since they could have feces on them. If they are particularly dirty throwing them out might be the best option. And since this parasite is best killed with heat, pouring boiling water on the shovel used, and on any deck or sidewalk where feces was, is the best method. If someone is infected with this parasite symptoms might include nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, lack of attention and even blindness. There is a medicine, albendazole, that can treat this parasite once inside the body but since it's tough to treat even with this medicine once it takes hold it's better to start earlier on. For more information about the parasite and how to properly clean a raccoon latrine you can go to the CDC website at:
Dr. John, Would you recommend I stop taking fish oil after the recent study that came out about Omega 3's linked to prostate cancer? Thanks, Gerard
Recently news sources discussed a study that connected omega-3 fatty acid to an increase in an aggressive type of prostate cancer. The main take away point from this study was that there was an "association" between the two but researchers didn't say that one actually causes the other. Omega-3 fatty acid, particularly the type that comes from natural sources like fatty fish, has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But like all supplements and medicines it's not something everyone should take. It can thin the blood and lead to an increase in bleeding. And again this new study did show an association between this fatty acid and an increase in prostate cancer in certain men. This study did not show a cause and effect between the two. In other words, the researchers did not find that omega-3 fatty acid caused prostate cancer, but only that there was some connection between the two. The bottom line for men is to discuss your risk factors for all health related items with your doctor and let him or her know what supplements, vitamins or herbs you are taking since they will impact your health one way or another. In this case if you are at a higher risk of heart attacks or strokes than omega-3 fatty acid might be something recommended for you. On the other hand, if you're at a bigger risk of prostate issues, then it might not be.