October 24, 2018

Tiny Increments on Educating People About Echinococcus Granulosus in Maine

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On February 20, 2013, I posted a press release sent out by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about the discovery of echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts found in moose. You can read that press release by clicking this link.

In addition to posting the press release, I also offered information about the disease to help readers obtain more knowledge and a better understanding of the real threats from this disease, frankly because I didn’t think the MDIFW press release contained enough information to help people make an honest assessment of the risks, which should become part of their decision making on outdoor excursions as well as proper care and prevention around the house.

With the help of a reader in finding it, the MDIFW posted some information on their website about E.G. While still inadequate, a small increment of changes were added to the original press release so positive actions are taking place.

To help readers better understand these tiny changes, I have posted the same information as can be found on the MDIFW website but took the liberty to highlight a few things there were added or omitted.

Echinococcus granulosus in Maine Moose

Over the last three years Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been collaborating with the University of Maine Animal Health Lab in examining the presence of lungworms (Dictyocaulus spp.) in moose. Lungworms have been noted in moose that have been found dead in late winter with heavy winter tick loads and the combination of both parasites has been implicated as a cause of calf mortality.

This past fall, students once again increased sampling intensity of moose lungs from harvested animals. This led to the University of Maine-Animal Health Lab, finding Echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts in some moose lungs. EG is a very small tapeworm that has a two part lifecycle; one in canids (coyotes/foxes/domestic dogs) and the second in moose. There are several known genotypes of this tapeworm, and genetic testing of the Maine tapeworms found that this EG is the northern, or least pathogenic, form. Although Echinococcus granulosus can infect humans, the form that is known to do so most often is the sheep-dog genotype. Finding the northern, wild-type form of EG in moose in Maine suggests that likely wild canids in Maine are infected and that possibly domestic dogs are infected as well, and that fact may allow for human exposure to this parasite. It is also very likely that we have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems having not actively looked for them prior to this work.

The adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the canid host, while the larval form lives in the lungs or liver of an infected moose. Humans may become infected by [original press release included the word ‘ingesting’] eggs of the parasite, which can be picked up by contact with canid feces.

In conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and University of Maine Animal Health Lab/Cooperative extension, we recommend [original release used ‘the Department’] the following:

* Hunters avoid harvesting sick or injured animals. [This was added]
* Hunters and trappers should always wear rubber or latex gloves when field dressing animals.
* Wild game meat should be thoroughly cooked.
* People should avoid contact with dead wild animals
* People should avoid contact with carnivore feces [This was added]
* After consultation with your veterinarian, regularly deworm pets with a product that works on tapeworms [what is emboldened was added]
* Do not let domestic pets eat the organs from either hunter-harvested animals or from “road kill” animals [This entire warning was added]
* Practice good personal hygiene-wash hands and contaminated clothes, especially after handling animals or anything that could be contaminated with feces [entire warning was added]

On a positive note, it appears that the MDIFW is getting better educated about E.G. I will continue to send them information in hopes they are willing to gain better understanding and knowledge.

What hasn’t been brought out in either the original press release or this information posted on MDIFW’s website, is that if moose have these E.G. cysts, more than likely the whitetail deer, if they don’t have them now, soon will. As a matter of fact all ungulates are susceptible to E.G. This includes both wild and domestic ungulates.

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