Raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) as an occupational hazard: 2. Use of personal protective equipment and infection control practices among raccoon rehabilitators

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Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm, is a zoonotic ascarid of importance to human and animal health. Wildlife rehabilitators who care for raccoons may be at an increased risk for exposure to the parasite, especially if proper precautions are not taken. In a wider effort to evaluate awareness regarding B. procyonis in the wildlife rehabilitation community, an online survey (38–39 questions) including questions about B. procyonis knowledge and attitudes was developed and administered to wildlife rehabilitators. To assess precautions taken among raccoon rehabilitators, participants who rehabilitated raccoons (n = 447) answered additional questions about use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control practices (ICPs). Reported use of gloves was variable, but hand hygiene was generally consistent. Masks and gowns were seldom used. Part-time or infrequent volunteers and rehabilitators located in the Central, Midwest and Southeast were significantly less likely to report consistent use of PPE. A total knowledge score from the survey was used to predict the likelihood of reporting the use of particular ICPs/PPE. Knowledge score had a highly significant but small effect on the likelihood of prophylactic use of anthelmintics, anthelmintics use for B. procyonis specifically, cleaning appropriately, and using species-dedicated housing. Risk factor analysis was performed on data from a prior serologic survey to evaluate factors associated with exposure to B. procyonis and inconsistent handwashing after contact with live raccoons and their faeces; practising rehabilitation in B. procyonis hyperendemic regions and practising rehabilitation in the western region were significant risk factors for being seropositive. These data further demonstrate that correct PPE/ICPs are critical in mitigating the risk of B. procyonis exposure among raccoon rehabilitators and among other captive species.

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