Perils of pet poop – so much more than just unsightly and smelly, it can spread disease
Have you ever been out on a walk and as you take that next step, you feel the slippery squish of poop under your foot?
It’s not just gross. Beyond the mess and the smell, it’s potentially infectious. That’s why signs reminding pet owners to “curb your dog” and scoop their poop have been joined in some places by posted warnings that pet waste can spread disease.
While human diseases caused by soil-transmitted parasites are considered uncommon in the U.S., they infect as many as an estimated billion people worldwide. Signs that remind you to pick up after your pet are not just trying to keep public spaces clean; they’re urging you to help safeguard your community’s health.
Their microscopic larvae can get into your body through small scratches in your skin after contact with contaminated soil or via accidental oral ingestion. Remember that next time you’re outside and wipe sweat from your face with a dirty hand and then lick your lips or take a drink – it’s that simple. After hose or rain water has rinsed contaminated poop into the soil, these parasite eggs can survive and infect for months or years to come.
Once in the human body, both hookworm and roundworm larvae can mature and migrate through the bloodstream into the lungs. From there, coughs help them gain access to the digestive tract of their host, where they leach nutrients by attaching to the intestinal wall. People with healthy immune systems may show no clinical signs of infection, but in sufficient quantities these parasites can lead to anemia and malnourishment. They can even cause an intestinal obstruction which may require surgical intervention, especially in young children.