Regardless of what you call it (feces, stool, BMs, poop, doodoo, scat, #2, caca, etc), people, especially kids, can and do unintentionally encounter this undesirable material in a variety of ways (i.e. tasting or smelling it). In September 2011, the Illinois Poison Center posted a blog about kids accidentally tasting various forms of fecal material with the conclusion that most of these exposures do not pose a serious health hazard.
Believe it or not, in 2010, US Poison Control Centers received 6,000 calls regarding exposures to feces or urine. And that’s no B.S. This statistic prompted us to investigate and summarize some of the far less common dangers posed by fecal excrement of many varieties. We don’t mean to gross you out; we just want you to be informed. Below is a table summarizing the type of problem associated with a fecal exposure, its source and causative agent and potential symptoms that it may cause.
Problems Associated with Feces Exposure
|Problem||Source and Causative Agent||Symptoms|
|Baylisascaris procyonis infection||Raccoon feces ingestion (those infected with Baylisascaris procyonis roundworm)||Nausea, tiredness, irritability, drowsiness, visual difficulties, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of coordination, loss of muscle control, paralysis, seizures, coma, death|
|Campylobacteriosis||Dog feces ingestion (those infected with Campylobacter bacteria)||Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea (may be bloody), fever|
|Cryptococcosis||Pigeon droppings inhalation (those infected with Cryptococcus neoformans fungus)||Tiredness, headache, dry cough, nausea, vomiting, fever, malaise, chest pain, bloody sputum, seizures, coma *Immunosuppressed people, especially those with HIV, have a higher risk for Cryptococcosis.|
|E. Coli gastroenteritis||Seagull feces ingestion and water contamination; Escherichia coli bacteria
(Chicago beach closings)
|Diarrhea (watery at first and later bloody), nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps, stomach tenderness|
|Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)||Rat feces inhalation (if infected with Hantavirus)||Headache, nausea, fever, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing,|
|Hepatitis A infection||Human feces ingestion (those infected with Hepatitis A virus)||Fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation vomiting fever, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray colored stool, yellow skin and eyes|
|Histoplasmosis||Bat feces inhalation; Histoplasma capsulatum fungus||Headache, muscle aches, chills dry cough fever, chest discomfort. Note: The stools of rabid bats, dogs and other animals do not pose a rabies risk.|
|Psittacosis||Birds, live poultry dried droppings inhalation; Chlamydia psittaci bacteria||Fatigue, chills, dry cough, fever, joint aches, headache, muscle aches, shortness of breath, bloody phlegm|
|Salmonellosis||Reptiles (turtles), birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs feces ingestion; Salmonella bacteria||Diarrhea (may be bloody), fever, stomach pain|
|Sewer gas||Hydrogen sulfide gas inhalation emitted from manure pits and sewers||Rotten egg smell, eye irritation, nose irritation, throat irritation, dry cough, decreased sense of smell, headache, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, joint pain, vomiting, chest pain, unconsciousness, rapid death,|
|Toxoplasmosis||Cat feces ingestión (those infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite)||Confusion, flu-like symptoms (body aches, fatigue, fever, headache, poor coordination, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes,) seizures *Greater health risk to pregnant women as this infection can lead to miscarriage or passing the infection to the unborn child.|
|Tularemia||Rabbit feces ingestion and inhalation (those infected with Francisella tularensis bacteria)||Chills, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, headache, joint stiffness, muscle pain, shortness of breath, sweating, weight loss, red spot on skin|
|Viral gastroenteritis||Human feces ingestion (those infected with Norovirus)||Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, headache, body ache, dehydration
(Frequent news stories of mass illness on cruise ships)
The above table provides only a “taste” of some bad things that can happen when people encounter various forms of fecal material. But don’t be scared, just be careful and always follow good hygiene and sanitary practices (including washing your hands thoroughly if you might have come into contact with any type of poop). If you have a question about any of the infectious diseases above that are possibly transmitted via fecal material, please discuss these issues with your primary care physician. Hydrogen sulfide, however, is an acute poisoning emergency and may require immediate medical management. Call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 immediately.