Tainted Soil May Put Kids at Risk for Vision
THURSDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children are among those
most likely to be affected by a parasitic disease called ocular
toxocariasis (OT), which can lead to permanent vision loss,
according to a national survey of American ophthalmologists.
OT can occur when a person ingests dirt that's contaminated with
microscopic Toxocara eggs, which come from feces of an infected dog
or cat. Larvae that emerge from the eggs migrate throughout the
body and cause severe systemic reactions.
Children are at high risk for this type of infection due to
their play habits and hygiene practices, according to researchers
at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 599 ophthalmologists who took part in the Internet survey
diagnosed a total of 68 patients with OT between September 2009 and
September 2010. Demographic information available for 44 of the
patients revealed that the median patient age was 8.5 years (with
an age range of 1 to 60), and 57 percent lived in the South.
Clinical data available for 30 patients showed that the most
common symptom of OT was vision loss, reported in 25 (83 percent)
of the cases. Of these patients, 17 (68 percent) suffered permanent
The findings appear in the June 10 issue of the
Morbidity and Mortality Report, published by the CDC.
"The results of this first national level survey demonstrate that OT transmission continues to occur in the United States, frequently affecting children and causing permanent vision loss in the majority of reported patients," the researchers wrote.
While Toxocara is found in all parts of the United States,
development of Toxocara larvae does not occur below 50 degrees
Fahrenheit. This means that soil in warmer regions is more likely
to contain infectious Toxocara eggs.
To prevent OT, people should have dogs and cats dewormed,
restrict pets' access to children's play areas, properly dispose of
pet waste, and practice good hygiene habits, experts advise.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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