File photo of a coyote in Calgary
A recently published University of Calgary study details how a parasitic tapeworm found in European wildlife has infected coyotes and more than a dozen Canadian humans since 2013.Appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study indicates that the parasite, echinococcus multilocularis, is unlike an average tapeworm in that it’s only about one millimetre long and is typically transferred between rodents and canid carnivores.If a coyote, dog or fox eats an infected rodent, they can contract the tapeworm and pass the eggs through their feces, which then pose a risk to other animals that come into contact with it, including humans.
U of C veterinarian Claudia Klein said the parasite is typically not harmful to the canids but can be up to 90 per cent fatal if undiagnosed in humans. There are currently 14 confirmed human cases in Canada, seven of which are in Alberta. None have been fatal.“There’s no reason for panic . . . the parasite affects the liver and sometimes we don’t notice symptoms until five, six, eight years later,” she said. “Hunters, trappers and vets should be most concerned, but for the average dog owner the thing to be mindful about is to wash your hands.”Klein said in Alberta, dogs are not at a great risk and the parasite is typically harmless in canids.Related
“Infection rate among coyotes is high depending on what park we looked in and what time of year it was. We saw as much as 80 per cent infection rates in the fecal samples,” she said. “It’s much less prevalent in dogs . . . of the 200 dog samples we looked at, only one per cent contained the tapeworm.”If residents are worried they might be infected, Klein said a blood test can test for antibodies, and affected people can be put on medication or be monitored further. For dogs, a fecal matter test can be done by a vet and similar medications will be given.Klein added people who are immunosuppressed are at greatest risk for being infected and should be extra vigilant if they own firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @oliviacondon