Harley, John P. Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.
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A parasitic disease caused by a roundworm typically found in raccoons that is transmissible to humans, other mammals, and birds. Baylisascaris procyonis is a parasitic roundworm of raccoons (Procyon lotor) and belongs to the order Ascaridida in the phylum Nematoda (Nemata). This large parasite, which is commonly termed raccoon roundworm, is responsible for the disease baylisascariasis in animals and humans. The disease is manifested by severe or fatal visceral larval migrans, ocular larval migrans, and neurological disease (neurological larval migrans) in both animals and humans. Larval migrans is defined as the prolonged migration and persistence of helminth larvae in the organs and tissues of animals or humans. This infection is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an emerging zoonosis (a disease of animals that is transmissible to humans) in the United States. It was first reported in the United States in 1931 from a raccoon in the New York Zoological Park (now known as the Bronx Zoo). The infection appears to be common in raccoons across the United States, including California, the Midwest, the Northeast region, the Middle Atlantic region, and the mountainous areas of the southeastern states. The first human case was reported in 1984 in a 10-month-old child in Pennsylvania. At least 16 severe cases (including 6 fatalities) have been reported and well documented in humans. The prevalence of subclinical cases is unknown. See also: Ascaridida; Infection; Nemata (Nematoda); Parasitology; Raccoon; Zoonoses
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