West Seattle toddler survives state’s first case of raccoon-carried parasite illness Baylisascaris

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One month ago, King County Public Health went public with alarming news: A toddler somewhere in the county had become severely ill with a rare disease linked to parasites found in raccoon droppings.

It’s so rare that this was the first case ever reported in our state, one of fewer than 30 reported in the U.S. since 1973.

This weekend, we learned the young patient is a 20-month-old West Seattle boy named Reed. His mom, Mandy Hall, told her family’s story publicly for the first time, in an online group, and contacted WSB too, because she is determined to educate as many people as possible about the roundworm known as Baylisascaris.

Their terrifying ordeal is not over yet, but Reed “continues to improve literally by the minute,” Mandy said.

Here’s how it began: “On April 26th, I called Reed’s pediatrician because he was sleeping so much. He had been sleeping long hours through the night and taking naps over 3 hours for a few days. This day, by the afternoon he had only been awake for 2 hours. They said it was likely a growth spurt and commented on great timing with me being due with our baby girl the following day … But something in me didn’t feel right. I tried setting him down to walk when he woke and his balance was off.”

She called her husband to leave work and return to their home by Fauntleroy Park, and when he arrived 15 minutes later, “Reed’s eyes weren’t moving right. He was staring off and not seeing us where we were. We immediately got in the car and left filled with so much worry. Over the next four days, we watched our sweet, spunky boy lose the ability to do anything other than swallow and breathe on his own. We sat in a hospital bed holding our baby whose eyes did not move, who didn’t react to anything, who shook with terrible tremors constantly, and our hearts have never been so broken.”

They had no idea what was wrong, but after a barrage of tests – including MRIs, blood work, even a bone-marrow biopsy – the hospital came up with likely Baylisascaris – which had to be (and was) verified by the Centers for Disease Control – as well as a form of encephalomyelitis that was causing brain swelling. They were sent home when there were no more tests and treatment to offer, but, Mandy said, the doctors also had no idea how much of a recovery Reed would make – he still could not sit up, talk, or even move his eyes purposefully.

While the family dealt with all this, Mandy went to the hospital to deliver Reed’s new little sister Piper, and was allowed to go home less than 24 hours later so the family could be together as they continued dealing with Reed’s illness (which is NOT contagious, person-to-person).

“The next week, the CDC and state Health Department came to our home to test soil and feces samples in a large tree on the edge of Fauntleroy Park in our yard,” Mandy said. “Shortly after, we received the devastating news that Reed’s blood and spinal fluid tested positive for Baylisascaris. They told us this was consistent with Baylisascaris-positive raccoon droppings and dirt tested from in and around our backyard tree. We were devastated once again, and now so uncertain of whether Reed would ever have a possibility of living the life he once had.”

But he is recovering, Mandy says: “Our little man has proved that he has the strongest mind, body and soul I’ve ever witnessed. Over the last month, Reed has learned to sit, crawl, grab toys, hold a cup, feed himself, talk, walk and play all over again. … My husband and I can visibly notice the difference day to day with his walking improving and getting faster, his motor skills being more defined, his eyes converging and focusing correctly …”

There is no way to test if the parasite is completely out of Reed’s system, Mandy says, so he was treated for a month – longer than prescribed – with an anti-parasite drug. He also received high-dose steroids, which reduced the swelling of his brain so the anti-parasite drug could get to it. He’ll be going back to Children’s Hospital this week for neurology followups, and he’s getting therapy at home including occupational and speech: “He is doing so well with therapy that we will soon start to reduce the number of times per week, which is great.”

She is telling their story because she wants others to be aware: “People should know to not only avoid droppings in general but if there is a latrine area near any living spaces to immediately have it cleaned up. The only thing that can truly kill the parasite eggs is very high temperatures, so – boiling water or weed torch. We had never seen raccoons in our yard before but I saw some last year near our house and assumed they lived in Fauntleroy Park since we have other animals in our yard (coyotes, squirrels, etc). We did notice some droppings around the tree but never knew they could be deadly and also weren’t aware of latrines in general.

“This deadly disease from raccoons in my backyard could be the same raccoons that run through your yard and climb your trees. While we are working with the CDC on cleanup for the latrine in our tree, that won’t eliminate this disease from our parks, West Seattle, and all of Seattle. I ask that you not only educate yourself, but tell (everyone) you know about this horrible disease to raise awareness to keep all of our children safe…. The past six weeks of my life have been unimaginable. I hope that sharing Reed’s story and raising awareness within our community will increase all of our children’s safety.”

MORE INFORMATION: The CDC’s page about baylisascaris advises:

You may discourage raccoons from living in and around your home or parks by taking these steps:

*prevent access to food
*keep trash containers tightly closed
*close off access to attics and basements
*keep sandboxes covered when not in use (raccoons may use sandboxes as a latrine)
*remove fish ponds — they eat the fish and drink the water
*eliminate water sources
*remove bird feeders
*clear brush so raccoons are not likely to make a den on your property

This King County webpage has more information, too.

28 Replies to "West Seattle toddler survives state's first case of raccoon-carried parasite illness Baylisascaris"

  • miws June 5, 2017 (9:14 am)

    Wishing Reed a continued and full recovery….


  • Diane June 5, 2017 (9:24 am)

    Thank you for sharing your story.  Sending healing thoughts and prayers that Reed continues to improve and to your whole family.  I can’t imagine going through something so scary and also delivering a new baby.  

  • ImNotSpartacus June 5, 2017 (9:26 am)

    People – DO NOT FEED THE RACCOONS. And this is why. That poor kiddo.

  • Peggy Cummings June 5, 2017 (9:35 am)

    This is rare. Raccoons are in our neighborhoods and parks. Be aware of droppings and latrine sites, clean them up and keep children away from them.

  • Joe Szilagyi June 5, 2017 (10:14 am)

    I’ve seen online that coyote urine usually keeps raccoons away from latrine sites. FYI for the curious. You liberally spray it around the site. If you have a dog, the dog will also spray on it then, making it even more offensive to raccoons. Even more extreme would be to regularly totally douse rags with ammonia and leave them on the site. 

    • Kersti Muul June 5, 2017 (10:57 am)

      interesting info!

      • junctioneer June 5, 2017 (9:28 pm)

        I’ve heard pretty mixed results about coyote urine. But what I found worked for our latrine was aluminum foil spread very broadly around the area. They didn’t want to go on it and ended up just finding another spot. 

  • justme June 5, 2017 (10:20 am)

    This story is so important for us to take notice of. I sure hope the little guy bounces back soon.

    We bought a home in WS that was flipped by a local realtor. It had previous owners who allowed a racoon to live in the porch roof. A mother and her continuous lineage of babies. When we realized the problem, we had to block off the pillars which were hollow and allowed the racoon family to climb up inside for many years. When my husband crawled under the front porch to install chicken wire to the bottom of the pillars, within 3 days he broke out into a violent spreading rash all over his midsection and upper legs. The dermatologist said, after several tests, that it was the worst staff he’s ever seen. Several strains of it. Likely the infected feces of the raccoons in the dirt where he was laying. Horrible filthy creatures.

    • Admiral Mom June 5, 2017 (10:50 am)

      Wow! So happy your husband is okay too! This is a good follow up story to read!

  • Admiral Mom June 5, 2017 (10:52 am)

    I’m so happy that Reed is doing better! We will be keeping him in our prayers for a full and speedy recovery! Thank you for sharing! I would love more information on how to know if you have a raccoon latrine. I hate these raccoons! 

  • Kersti Muul June 5, 2017 (10:56 am)

    There is a community latrine behind our house and I have always been worried. I found a squirrel last year with the classic ‘wobbly’ symptoms. It turned out the squirrel was blind, and I ended up befriending him for about a year.

    I research squirrels in the immediate area and see many succumb to all kinds of illnesses but so far, not this one.  It is basically the equivalent of a mad cow disease type of thing in the squirrel’s brain. 

    I am really glad to see this story. I hope it doesn’t generate any unnecessary aggression toward our raccoon friends out there, as this so far is an extremely rare occurrence….but it is out there now and we are aware.

    So grateful this little guy is pulling through. 


  • City raccoons June 5, 2017 (11:16 am)

    The city raccoons we have living in west Seattle can be very harmful to your property pets and children, as this terrible story tells tale. We had a family of raccoons consistently using our yard for a Latrine (google their bathroom habits). It was foul, disgusting, and starting to get out of control. I tried several methods to deter them from my property. But after damaging patio furniture, killing our neighbors cat, and consistent harassment of my wife in our back yard in the evening or early morning as she left for work, enough was enough. I ended up dispatching and entire family of raccoons 5+ and seem to have broken the cycle of mating and living in our area. After reading this story, I am extremely happy to of stoppped the problem before one of our children or pets inadvertently became sick from these foul creatures.  

    I hope the best for a fast recovery for you little guy. And that others reading this would be aware of the problems these animals can cause as well as examine their property for signs before the problems gets out of hand. 

  • AT June 5, 2017 (11:17 am)

    Poor kid, I hope he has a full and swift recovery. 

    For those of us who live close to the many ravines and wooded areas on the peninsula and have frequent raccoon traffic, how are the parasites acquired?  Does walking barefoot or breathing dust particles while dealing with plant debris put us at risk, or do you have to actually eat dirt?  

    • WSB June 5, 2017 (11:39 am)

      Tons more info is linked in the story including this FAQ


      To that question – ingestion: “People become infected by ingesting infectious eggs. Most infections are in children and others who are more likely to put dirt or animal waste in their mouth by mistake.”

      • Thecure June 5, 2017 (12:22 pm)

        The parasites are microscopic, and can be carried from shoes and sports gear into homes and hands. Anyone ever scratch a piece of food from between their teeth? Have babies rub your face after crawling on the grass? It’s easier than it sounds to ingest the millions of parasites in a single dropping. Also, Dog feces can contain parvovirus, whipworms, hookworms,roundwormsthreadwormscampylobacteriosisgiardia, and coccidia- so it’s best to avoid dog latrines as well. You’ll know you’re in a dog latrine, anytime you enter a Seattle public park or playfield, or a planting strip in any dense urban area if Seattle. 

        • Rr June 6, 2017 (7:49 pm)


  • PhysicsLady June 5, 2017 (11:46 am)

    So much to be grateful for – so glad Reed is on the road to recovery, so glad for your new baby, so glad for health professionals that were able to help Reed, so grateful for the community of West Seattle Moms and how we support one another    

  • Azimuth June 5, 2017 (11:59 am)

    Thank you very much for sharing. I have 2 little ones so this goes straight to my core.

  • Mat June 5, 2017 (12:14 pm)

    I’m a father of two young kids, one close enough in age to Reed that they may eventually be schoolmates and I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. I’m so happy to hear he’s recovering and that his little sister is healthy. Thank you for sharing your story, because of it I will be much more cautious about the raccoons in our area and will make sure I’ve got countermeasures in place to prevent them having a food source or safe space. 

  • ACG June 5, 2017 (12:32 pm)

    Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. 

  • ACG June 5, 2017 (12:55 pm)

    And, after reading the CDC’s info, this can be transmitted to dogs. So, just a heads up to the (many) dog owners that let their dogs run off leash in Fauntleroy Park and the (few) owners who keep their dogs on leash. The dogs could pick this infection up and bring it home.  Thanks WSB and Mandy for sharing. 

  • Bruce N. June 5, 2017 (1:25 pm)

    I had a raccoon latrine in my backyard that I had to constantly clean and pour boiling water on. Imagine the horror of being a parent when our 1 year old came up to us with a handful of raccoon feces. She underwent serious hand washing right away!

    I’m glad Reed is recovering but what a terrifying situation.

  • CYRR June 5, 2017 (1:43 pm)

    Glad to know Reed is on the road to recovery.  Baylis. A. is extremely rare in WA. West Seattle is known to have an uptick of raccoons which also contributes to an outbreak of canine distemper. King Co provides useful resources on how to properly clean up latrine sites to discontinue the spread of infection of the parasite.

    We make it a point to always wash our hands after gardening or handling ground soil as well as wipe our pets’ paws after walking outdoors. Our children who crawl around on their hands and knees need to be supervised when outdoors and have their hands cleaned as they’re curious with often put their hands into their mouths.  

    We all live nearby wildlife here in the PNW so it’s important to do our due diligence to exercise important hygiene habits when outdoors. 

  • justme June 5, 2017 (1:56 pm)

    It is also air born from digging in dirt.

  • Marianne June 5, 2017 (7:21 pm)

    “It’s so rare that this was the first case ever reported in our state, one of fewer than 30 reported in the U.S. since 1973.”

    I am glad the baby is recovering, but as stated in the story, this illness is extremely rare.  Help your children practice good hygiene and don’t feed wildlife.

  • Marlys June 6, 2017 (4:15 pm)

    Thank God Reed is recovering. We’ve had raccoon problems both at Snoqualmie Pass (where they infected a neighbors cat) and on Vashon Island where they decided to use our small float dock for a latrine. Knowing the powdered hot red pepper keeps squirrels away from bird feeders, I bought a very large bag of the powdered pepper at the Korean market and, after cleaning the poo off the dock, sprinkled a bit of it on our dock for a few days. Result: no more raccoons. If we see one now in the yard, I sprinkle the area we saw it. The most economical place to buy it is at one of the Asian stores in Seattle that sell it by pound measurements.

  • RickB June 6, 2017 (8:27 pm)

    Hey Tracy, just a little pedantry from me: our local public health jurisdiction is called Public Health – Seattle & King County, as seen at their website: http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health.aspx  .

    Also, if you want to go all out the full name of CDC is Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (I’m not sure why the P gets dropped from the acronym). https://www.cdc.gov/

    Editing to add: I’m only writing because I know you have very high standards. Hope you don’t take it the wrong way.

  • Patsy June 14, 2017 (9:57 am)

    I’m  so sorry to hear of your child’s terrible illness from the raccoons.  A vet told me about this parasite a few years ago, and I  fought raccoons in my backyard who wanted to swim in my above ground pool. The vet said if they stooled in the pool, it would have to be drained in case they were infected. I keep a vigilant eye out for any appearance. They don’t like firecrackers, or loud noises. I initially tried to drive them away with the hose, but they seemed to like that. It would probably  be safer to get a new pool since this parasite is not easy to kill.

Sorry, comment time is over.