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Today is Rare Disease Day

 Wednesday, February 29, 2012 marks Rare Disease Day 2012 . Today, hundreds of patient organizations from more than 40 countries worldwide are organzing awareness-raising activities converging around the slogan “Rare but strong together”.  This collaboration will focus attention on the needs of patients and families affected by rare diseases, highlighting lesser-known conditions as a public health issue.

Among the many foundations collaborating today, is the Fighting Blindness Foundation, which is working tirelessly to cure conditions that are considered "rare" because they affect less than 200,000 Americans. According the the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are nearly 7,000 such diseases affecting around 30 million Americans (about 1 in 10 people). The Foundation's website offers disease information and research updates related to rare retinal diseases, which collective affect approximately 200,000 Americans and stem from defects in about 200 different genes.  

Our practice would like to contribute by raising awareness on a rare retinal disease.

According to the Center of Disease Control, Toxocariasis is the parasitic disease caused by the larvae of two species of Toxocara roundworms: Toxocara canis from dogs and, less commonly, Toxocara cati from cats. Toxocariasis is considered one of the Neglected Parasitic Infections.  

Infected dogs and cats shed Toxocara eggs in their feces and contaminate the environment. Humans or other animals can be infected by accidentally ingesting Toxocara eggs. For example, humans can become infected if they work with dirt and accidentally ingest dirt containing Toxocara eggs. Although rare, people can be infected by eating undercooked or raw meat from an infected animal such as raw lamb or calf’s liver. Because dogs and cats are frequently found where people live, there may be large numbers of infected eggs in the environment. Once in the body, the Toxocara eggs hatch and roundworm larvae can travel in the bloodstream to several parts of the body, including the liver, heart, lungs, brain, muscles, and eyes. Most infected people do not have any symptoms. However, in heavy infections, the roundworm larvae can cause damage to these tissues and organs. The symptoms of toxocariasis, the disease caused by these migrating larvae, include fever, coughing, and inflammation of the liver. Rarely, the larvae can travel to the eye and cause ocular toxocariasis or OLM. Ocular toxocariasis occurs when a microscopic Toxocara larva enters the eye and causes inflammation and scarring on the retina. OLM can cause blindness. 

Children and adolescents under the age of 20 are more likely to test positive for Toxocara infection. This may be because children are more likely to eat dirt and play in outdoor environments, such as sandboxes, where dog and cat feces can be found.