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Visceral Larva Migrans

What is VLM?
VLM, also known as Toxocariasis, is a disease caused by the larval stage of the parasites Toxoxara canis and to a lesser degree by Toxocara cati. These are intestinal parasites of dogs and cats, respectively. VLM is rarely reported in New York City, with only 3 cases reported in the past 10 years.
Who gets VLM?
VLM affects mostly children less than six years of age but it also can occur at older ages.
How is VLM spread?
VLM is present wherever dogs and cats are found and Toxocara eggs are able to survive. Toxocara eggs in feces of infected dogs and cats may contaminate the soil. Eggs remain viable in the soil for many months. Children become infected by directly eating dirt or indirectly by eating unwashed, raw vegetables. There is no direct person to person transmission.
What are the symptoms of VLM?
The larva causes damage to the abdominal organs or the eye. Cough, fever, wheezing, rash, inflammation of the liver, other abdominal, organs, and lymph glands. However, most infections are asymptomatic.
How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
Weeks or months, depending upon the intensity of infection. Ocular (eye) manifestations may occur as late as 4-10 years after initial infection with Toxocariasis.
How is VLM diagnosed?
Inflammatory infiltrates (eosinophilia) of the lungs or other organs, and an elevated white blood cell count are the hallmarks of VLM. The diagnosis is made by a specific antibody (blood) test.
What is the treatment for VLM?
Most patients recover without specific therapy. Anti-inflammatory and anti-helminthic drugs may be considered for treatment of severe complications, such as involvement of the brain, lungs, or heart. There is no proven therapy, although thiabendazole, mebendazole, diethylcarbamazine, and other anti-helminthics have been used.
How can VLM be prevented?
Prevent Toxocara eggs from contaminating the environment and children from ingesting the eggs. Dogs and cats should be treated for Toxocara and other worm infections. Prevent contamination of soil by dog and cat feces in areas immediately adjacent to houses and children's play areas. Children should be educated about not eating dirt or putting dirty objects in their mouth. Always wash hands after handling soil and before eating.

For more information call 311.

Last Updated: December 31, 2012