Animals are often carriers of diseases and parasites that can be very dangerous to humans. For example, the bubonic plague that devastated Europe in the middle ages was spread by fleas and rats. Now a new disease is spreading across North America and Coyotes are one of the carriers.
According to The Canadian Broadcasting Company, a strain of tapeworm that is more common in Europe and Asia has been spread to North America. Echinococcus multilocularis was discovered in Alberta, Canada back in the 2012 and has since been spreading.
The parasite’s life cycle involves two animals, canines (coyotes/foxes) and rodents. Infected coyotes/foxes shed the tapeworm’s eggs in their feces. Their feces are eaten by rodents, which are considered intermediate hosts. the eggs become larvae that form large cysts that kill the host. Coyotes or foxes scavenge the dead rodent and ingest the larva the larvae become adults and the cycle repeats itself.
Humans can also be infected with the tapeworm. It can be passed on to by handling contaminated fruit, soil or through an infected dog’s fur. The eggs are very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Once a human is infected, they develop the disease, alveolar echinococcosis (AE). It develops slowly over several years and causes numerous lesions in the body, mainly in the liver. If the disease is not discovered and treated, the mortality rate is 90 percent.
So far 14 people in Canada, since 2013, have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal parasite.
Dr. Claudia Klein, who has studied the disease, says her lab is now finding the deadly strain at an “Overwhelming” rate when they examine coyote feces and rodent livers.
Klein says hunters and trappers are at an elevated risk of getting the disease from wild animals and should get their blood tested for the presence of antibodies.
Research suggests that the tapeworm is prevalent in most of Alberta and likely other parts of Western Canada and possibly in parts of the central US. More research is needed to identify the extent of the spread.
To help yourself avoid infection, Klein suggests you wash your hands after handling coyotes, wolves, or even picking up your dog’s feces.
She also says to not be alarmed but to be aware.