A rare, deadly disease that has left an infant brain damaged and a teenager blind in one eye, has been detected in Brooklyn, the Daily News has learned.
The city's Department of Health is on alert for Raccoon Ringworm, a disease contracted through contact with raccoon feces. It can cause permanent nerve damage and death.

"Parents should closely supervise small children in areas where raccoons live to prevent possible ingestion of raccoon feces," said Sally Slavinski, of a Health Department unit that deals with diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

In the first case, a healthy infant who traveled to upstate New York last year started having seizures and spinal problems last October. The baby has been brain-damaged and hospitalized ever since.

Then, in January, a Brooklyn teen who hasn't left the city recently, lost sight in the right eye.

Fewer than 30 cases of Raccoon Ringworm have been reported nationwide. It takes two to four weeks for symptoms, which include nausea, loss of coordination and muscle control, and blindness, to develop.

News of the disease, which strikes mostly kids and especially developmentally disabled children, sent shivers through city playgrounds.

"It's terrifying. God only knows how I would react if my kids became that ill," said Bay Ridge mom of two, Angelia Kane, 38.

"The concern for me would be kids being kids. I have a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy. When they're slightly out of sight, they're going to pick up something in the course of their normal behavior and put their filthy hands in their mouths."

With the swine flu outbreak, Kane's kids have been washing their hands more often, but she said she won't keep them from going to the playground.

"If you spend enough time reading about all the things kids can contract you don't leave the house," she said.

Still, Slavinski said parents should take other precautions.

"Raccoon feces should be removed using gloves and disposable bags, and placed in trash to keep from children," she said.

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