Raccoon droppings are gross, but are they also dangerous?
The world famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci once said: “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” When we base our actions on our opinions instead of on proper knowledge, the consequences can be tragic.
OK, this is a good quote and nice advice, but what does it have to do with raccoon droppings? Let me explain.
More and more people every year deal with this animal around or inside their homes. While some hate them, others have a friendlier approach. Some are determined to chase them away at any cost; others feed them. Some even decide to have them as pets. Would you say that people have different opinions about raccoons? Oh yes!
Raccoon Diseases In Humans
As the raccoon population keeps growing all around the US, so does our knowledge about them. You may associate raccoons with the damage they can cause while marauding your house. This is a real nuisance. It will cost you money, but it is fixable.
However, raccoons can potentially cause more severe damage that is painful to fix or at times not fixable at all. We are talking about diseases spread by raccoons through their droppings.
The most widely known disease spread by raccoons is rabies, and a rabid raccoon poses a life-threatening danger to humans. Once contracted, rabies is fatal if not promptly treated. Luckily, raccoon droppings are not a rabies carrier, and the chances of getting bitten or scratched by an infected animal are quite remote. It is rare for raccoons to attack humans (here are some common signs of a rabid raccoon). Instead, the risks are much higher when dealing with raccoon feces and urine.
Raccoon Droppings Health Concerns
When dealing with raccoon droppings, the threat is invisible, difficult to fight and capable of lasting for years. The bacteria in the feces or urine are hazardous and can easily infect humans if they’re not cautious. Your pets are exposed too.
For several reasons that we will explain, children are the most vulnerable to infections. So even though the rate of infection around the US is not very high, would you like to take a risk? I don’t think so.
Given a rapidly increasing raccoon population that’s entering even urban areas, it is important for your safety to be rightly informed on the topic instead of trusting mere opinions.
The most common diseases spread by raccoon droppings are:
• Raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) – This is the most worrisome. It is spread by tiny eggs inside the feces. It takes about 2 to 4 weeks for the eggs to become infectious. Eggs become airborne so they may be contracted not only by ingestion but even by breathing. Once inside the human body, the roundworm may attack the brain, the eyes or the spinal cord causing permanent damage. Blindness, mental slowness and loss of muscle control are common effects of roundworm. At times, it may be deadly. Roundworm can be contracted both by humans and animals.
• Leptospirosis – These infectious bacteria are found in raccoon urine. Direct contact with an open wound or incidental ingestion is the most common cause of infection. If not promptly treated, leptospirosis may cause liver or kidney failure or meningitis.
• Salmonella – These bacteria are found in feces and infection happens by incidental ingestion. Most infected people recover without any treatment but in more severe cases hospitalization is required.
How Raccoon Droppings Spread Diseases
We’re guessing that after reading about these diseases you are now scared to death, right? Well, even though they’re potentially highly dangerous, it is possible to protect yourself and reduce the risks for you and your family and pets. So don’t freak out, and keep reading.
Let’s see how these diseases can spread, why children are at a higher risk and why removing the droppings is not enough to be protected.
Keep in mind this crucial information: Roundworm eggs can live for years, and even if you remove the droppings, the areas they touched can still be contaminated by the eggs.
None of you would even think of touching or ingesting raccoon droppings, right? That would be sick and disturbing! However, try to picture these scenarios:
• Your child is playing in the yard, and he accidentally touches some droppings and then puts his hands in his mouth. After all, he is a baby and putting things in his mouth is an all-time favorite.
• Your child is playing with his preferred toys on the ground or in a sandbox that has been used by raccoons as a latrine. The toys come into contact with ground that’s still contaminated, and your child puts the toys in his mouth.
• You go outside to get some wood for your fireplace, and as you start to collect the logs you discover there is a raccoon latrine in the woodpile. It is too late. You already accidentally touched some droppings, and you happened to have an open wound in your hand. Or, in moving the logs, you caused the roundworm eggs to fly and are inhaling them.
• Your dog comes into contact with raccoon droppings. You know how dogs are fascinated by that kind of thing, right? Now he is contagious too, and his feces becomes a carrier. You are unaware of this, and obviously, you are not as concerned about his droppings as you are the raccoon’s. Anyhow, your dog’s droppings are now equally dangerous.
These are just some of the incidents that could cause an infection. The threat is subtle, even invisible, but it is there. You need to safely remove the raccoon droppings and you must do it soon.
How To Dispose Of Raccoon Droppings
The most common mistake people make is to think that removing the droppings is enough to be safe. Wrong, very wrong!
As we stated before, some of the bacteria in raccoon droppings are very resistant. The roundworm eggs, for instance, can live for years and still be contagious. Even if you remove the droppings, the area touched by the feces is still contaminated. Bleach and other chemicals for domestic use have no effect on the eggs and neither does drying nor severe winter weather. Only heat from boiling water or a flame is effective.
Removing raccoon feces is not a task to be taken lightly and requires many precautions and, usu-ally, a specialist. Specifically, if you have to remove droppings from your attic, chimney or crawl spaces in your house, it is highly recommended to hire a wildlife specialist. The poor ventilation in those areas significantly increases the possibility of inhaling the bacteria, and it is challenging to decontaminate the area. A wildlife professional, on the other hand, knows how to do the cleaning thoroughly and in total safety.
It is important to remove the droppings as soon as you find them. The roundworm eggs become dangerous only after 14 days, so removing the feces within this interval is most important for your family’s safety.
Before cleaning droppings outdoors, always follow these recommendations:
• Wear protective clothes (disposable rubber gloves, disposable coveralls, respirator).
• Use water to lightly mist the latrine area to avoid raising a cloud of dust.
• Using a shovel or scoop, put the droppings in a heavy-duty garbage bag.
• If the droppings are on a pile of wood, dispose of the wood.
• If the latrine is on the ground, after removing the droppings, remove 2–4 inches of soil. Put everything in a heavy-duty garbage bag.
• Tightly seal the garbage bag and put inside a second bag before disposing of it in the trash can.
• Using a propane torch, gently flame the surface of the latrine area. Turn the soil over with a shovel and pass the torch over it several more times.
• Disinfect all the tools using hot water and bleach. Wash all the non-disposable clothes in hot water.
• Carefully clean your skin and under your fingernails.
All the above information may sound overly alarming, but remember what we said at the beginning: Personal opinions can be deceiving; knowledge is for your own protection.
Raccoon droppings are dangerous and have to be treated accordingly. This is a fact. A wildlife specialist can safely assist you in cleaning up your house, preventing raccoons from coming back and solving the problem once and for all.
If you are experiencing problems with raccoon droppings we will be happy to help you.