Toxocariasis: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

So what is toxocariasis? What are the causes? What are the symptoms? How can we diagnose the disease? Can we treat it at home? I have tried to jot down the answers for these questions in a few simple words.

Please read on to find out more about the disease.

Some useful statistics

Here are some related statistics:-

  • Mostly affects people below 20 years of age
  • Cases are greater in developing countries
  • Around ten thousand cases are observed every year
  • Very few out of them turn out to be serious.
  • Mostly observed among young children and pet owners
  • VLM affects newborn and young infants more while OLM affects middle-aged and developing children more

What is toxocariasis?

It is an illness which is caused by larvae in human.

Some primary related points are:-

  • The dog, cat or fox roundworm causes it.
  • Other names for the illness is visceral larva migraines and occular larva migraines
  • As suggested by its primary cause, this disease is transmitted from animals to humans
  • The disease does not have any specific age group and can affect everyone.
  • It affects children more than adults because of their tendency to play in dirt or carelessness about personal hygiene

Toxocariasis are of 3 primary types; covert, visceral and ocular

Covert toxocariasis

The main points regarding this type are:-

  • It is the least serious of all the cases
  • Occurs mainly in children
  • Characterized by mild illness which might look like a fever
  • Symptoms include coughing, difficulty in sleeping, headaches and stomach pain
  • Complications like abnormal enlargement of liver, inflammation of lymph nodes, and a strange and irritating sound in chest while breathing are associated

Visceral larvae migraines

The main points regarding this type are:-

  • Caused by the larvae migrating through internal organs and causing swelling and burning sensation. Repeated occurance of the disease is also a cause.
  • Symptoms include tiredness, abnormally low body weight, weight loss, fever, pain in abdomen, pneumonia, rashes, headaches, seizures and bronchitis
  • Complications include inflamation of lymph nodes, abnormal enlargement of liver, and a strange and irritating sound in chest while breathing
  • Sometimes fluid fills up in the liver
  • In rare cases respiratory failure are reported
  • Serious cases of the disease have reported brain disorders, burning and swelling of heart, and even death

Ocular larva migraines

The main points regarding this type are:-

  • Occurs mostly in old children and young adults
  • Caused by migration of larvae to rear sections of eye and poor immune system
  • Usually affects a single eye
  • Symptoms are redness of eye, decrease in vision, inability to move pupil, whiteness over the pupil, formation of granules and irritation of retina.
  • Complications like vision loss, faulty rebuilding of retina muscles, inability to look at the same direction with both eyes  eye cancer, or pulling away of retina from the supporting muscles may arise
  • Damage can be permanent

What are the causes?

Occurance of more than one syndrome is extremely exceptional. The primary causes of the disease are :-

  • Larvae found in dog and cat excretion
  • Accidentally inhaling dust contaminated by these germs
  • Consuming chicken meat contaminated by the disease in rare cases
  • Consuming food which has been kept open for long, and hence be contaminated by flies.

The most common source of infection are pet dogs. When they are born, they may receive the larvae from their mothers. As the puppy grows, the larvae thrive inside its intestine. Soon theses larvae start producing enough eggs to Contaminate the atmosphere. Thus through normal breathing we inhale these eggs and catch the illness.

The new eggs take upto 6 weeks to develop fully into infectious eggs. However once developed, they can remain infectious for years, thanks to their hard outer covering

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend a lot on the body of the host. However in normal cases they remain dormant and do not express themselves. Both types of the disease has different symptoms. The most common symptoms for occular toxocariasis are:-

  • loss in vision
  • swelling and burning sensation at eye
  • damage to retina
  • effects are mostly observed more in one eye than the other

The most common causes of Visceral Toxocariasis are:-

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • pain in abdomen
  • a low whistling like irritating sound in the chest
  • coughing

How doctors diagnose it?

No definite diagnosis exists for this disease. The only way to do it is by finding the worm itself in the patients body. PCR, ELISA, and serum testing are some such tests which help in diagnosis. However that are not very reliable.

What are the treatments?

Treatment is generally not necessary as the symptoms heal by themselves within a few days. The main cause being larvae, the most common treatments include:-

  • anti parasitic drugs
  • Extra protective measures for eyes in case of occular toxocariasis

How to avoid the illness?

Completely erasing the disease is difficult because the life circle of the germs is complex. However here are some easy steps which can help us avoid the germs:-

  • Take your pet to the veterinary regularly. They can check your pet for existing diseases and recommend treatments if infected.
  • Maintain hygine and clean yourself properly after playing with your pets and before having food
  • Do not mess around much in dirty areas like playground
  • Clean your pets kennel or basket at least once a week and dispose off the feces properly.
  • Teach your children to maintain personal hygene and avoid putting dirt in the mouth from ground
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before usage to wash off any eggs present initially

Keep food covered to prevent flies and other insects from sitting on it. They carry the eggs with them when they previously sat on animal faeces.

Conclusion

Thus we see that toxocariasis is a dangerous disease. We must not take it lightly. Any kind of parasite in the body is harmful. So it is necessary to avoid the disease. It is not very difficult to evade. Just a few steps while teaching your children or while around your pet can help prevent this disease.

I hope this article has helped in shedding some light over the main points related to toxocariasis. Please do not forget to comment in the comment section.

Soham Choudhury

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