As the city works to recover from a swine flu outbreak that turned out to not be so bad, New Yorkers have a new disease to worry about. And this one can be deadly.
The rare disease, raccoon roundworm, has been found in Brooklyn, according to the Daily News. The city's health department is on high alert for the illness, which is contracted through raccoon feces and attacks the nervous system, causing permanent nerve damage. It can also be fatal.
Less than 30 cases of the raccoon disease have been reported nationwide, but the illness has affected two people in New York in the last year, reports the Daily News. In October, a healthy baby who had traveled to upstate New York began experiencing seizures and spinal complications. The child has since been hospitalized with brain damage. Then a Brooklyn teen was blinded in his right eye in January. It usually takes two to four weeks before symptoms such as nausea, blindness and loss of muscle control develop, which can make the disease more difficult to diagnose.
"Parents should closely supervise small children in areas where raccoons live to prevent possible ingestion of raccoon feces," Sally Slavinski, who works with the health department, told the Daily News.
Playgrounds could be a hot spot for contraction of the disease, since kids could accidentally touch animal excrement if their parents take their eyes off them for a minute.
Angelia Kane, who has two children, ages 3 and 6, and lives in Bay Ridge, is terrified about what could happen. "The concern for me would be kids being kids," she told the Daily News. "When they're slightly out of sight, they're going to pick up something in the course of their normal behavior and put their filthy hands in their mouths."
More parents have been encouraging their children to wash their hands after the swine flu erupted in several city schools, but Kane hasn't kept her kids from the playground.
"If you spend enough time reading about all the things kids can contract you don't leave the house," she told the Daily News.