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Summit Up

Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column that’s worried about getting brain-eating worms by licking raccoon scat.

Not that we would ever lick raccoon scat ” at least not on purpose “but our photo on this page last week of two cute-as-can-be ‘coons checking out the view from a reader’s fireplace prompted Keystone veterinarian Georgina Miller to write:

“The picture of the two young raccoons in a Dillon home is certainly charming.

However, it is important for people to recognize the potential danger that comes with close contact with raccoons.

Raccoons are very commonly infected with an intestinal worm ” Baylisascaris procyonis ” and are capable of passing many infectious eggs in their feces.

“If accidentally eaten, the eggs develop into worms that can infect the brain and other organs, resulting in severe and often fatal disease.

“Young children, who frequently put things into their mouths, are most at risk.

“The picture of the raccoons in the fireplace was particularly jarring, because the earliest recognized case of human infection with this worm was a 10-month-old boy who died of encephalitis, caused by worms tunneling through his brain.

“Raccoons were known to be nesting in an unused chimney in the house, and infection likely occurred as the baby crawled around and got some of their feces on his hands.

“In raccoons, the normal host of Baylisascaris procyonis, the worms reside in the intestinal tract, and cause little damage.

When a different species, such as a human, becomes infected, the worms migrate extensively throughout the body, causing widespread injury.”

The Centers for Disease Control even notes that the parasite is so damaging to humans that it has the potential to be used as a “possible agent of bioterrorism.”

We are not making this up.

So everyone, please, be on the lookout of raccoon-wielding terrorists!

It’s Wednesday, and we’re wearing Lone Ranger masks and washing our food in the river, making a mental note to avoid eating raccoon scat.

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