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CDC Reports Prevalence of Worms Transmitted by Dogs and Cats to Humans is Higher Than Previously Understood

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 General News J E 4
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BEL AIR, Md., Nov. 5 About 14 percent of the U.S.population is infected with Toxocara, or internal roundworms, contracted fromdogs and cats. That's according to the results of a Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention (CDC) study announced today at the American Society ofTropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia.

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The CDC study shows the transmission of Toxocara from dogs and cats topeople is most common in young children and youth under age 20, and morecommon in non-Hispanic Blacks than in Mexican Americans and non-HispanicWhites of all age groups. It is highest in lower socioeconomic andless-educated populations. All children, however, are more susceptible toinfection given their propensity to play in and sometimes eat contaminatedsoil.

Infections are acquired by accidental ingestion of Toxocara eggs found inenvironments contaminated with feces of infected dogs and cats. This includesplay areas and sandboxes.

"The results of this study demonstrate that Toxocara infection in theUnited States is more widespread and common than previously understood," saidPeter Schantz, VMD, PhD, an epidemiologist in the Division of ParasiticDiseases at the CDC and a founding board member of the Companion AnimalParasite Council (CAPC). "Although most persons infected with Toxocara haveno apparent symptoms, this infectious agent is capable of causing blindnessand other serious systemic illness, which makes it a public health issue."

While rare, the visual impairment most often affects children. Sincetoxocariasis is not a reportable infection, true numbers of cases of visualimpairment and other syndromes are not known, according to Schantz.

The nonprofit CAPC was formed to educate pet owners about zoonotic diseaseand steps they can take to virtually eliminate the risk of pets making peoplesick.

"The CAPC recommends that pet owners administer year-round preventivemedicines that control internal and external parasites -- such as roundworms,heartworm, fleas and ticks -- for the life of their dog or cat no matter wherethey live," said Michael Paul, DVM, executive director of the CAPC. "If youprevent parasitic infections in companion animals, you greatly reduce thechances of zoonotic transmission to people."

The American Animal Hospital Association, the American Association ofFeline Practitioners and Schantz of the CDC all endorse the CAPC guidelinesthat call for year-round parasite control in companion animals to protect bothpets and people from zoonotic disease. Parasite control today is simple, safeand effective. Treating dogs and cats for parasites with a monthly product isone of the easiest and most effective ways to keep pets healthy and eliminaterelated health risks to humans.

Despite the availability of effective treatments to prevent them,parasites -- some deadly -- remain a common fact of life for dogs and cats.Most companion animals have the potential for exposure to parasites all yearlong. Experts agree there is a year-round threat in all regions of thecountry, even those that experience below-freezing temperatures, sinceparasites such as fleas and ticks thrive inside homes regardless of weatherconditions outdoors.

Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. funded the CDC toxocara study.

About the CAPC

The nonprofit CAPC (http://www.petsandparasites.org) is an independentcouncil of veterinarians and other animal health care professionalsestablished to create guidelines for the optimal control of internal andexternal parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. It bringstogether broad expertise in parasitology, internal medicine, public health,veterinary law, private practice and association leadership

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