What is Echinococcus Multilocularis?
Echinococcus multiocularis is an emerging tapeworm here in Ontario. Echinococcus is found across the globe and is especially prevalent in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America. Prior to 2012, Echinococcus multilocularis had never been seen in wildlife nor in domestic animals in southern Ontario. Since that time, it has established itself here. It is also now firmly established in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although the risk is extremely low people need to be made aware of it.
Why Should We Be Worried?
Echinococcus multiocularis is a small tapeworm that can cause big problems in humans. People who are infected with this tapeworm do not typically show signs for 5 to 15 years due to their incubation period. It then typically presents itself as a cyst on the lungs or liver, but cysts can develop anywhere. Once the cyst is large enough to cause compression on other parts of the body, that’s when we typically find out we have it.
Now that we know our wildlife here in Ontario can be infected, we have to think about the possibility of our canine and feline friends being exposed to it, as well as ourselves.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
Echinococcus multiocularis is typically found in foxes, coyotes, and dogs. Larval stages can be transmitted to people through ingestion of food, water or fecal material contaminated with tapeworm eggs. Follow these easy steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from a potential infection:
- Do not allow dogs to eat rodents or other wild animals.
- Avoid contact with foxes, coyotes, stray dogs and other wild animals.
- Do not encourage wild animals to come close to your home and do not keep them as pets.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling dogs or cats, and before handling food.
- Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection.
- Deworm your dog regularly.
- Inform your veterinarian if you notice white rice-type looking segments on your dog’s feces or anus.