Cat poop parasite becoming public health problem
Can you believe that cats in the U.S. create about 2.6 billion pounds of feces every year? Of greater concern though, is the fact that cat poop can carry a parasite called_Toxoplasma gondii_, which can cause serious harm to humans. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that the parasite can infect people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, in some cases leading to deafness, seizures, eye damage and developmental problems in babies. And what worries that researchers is that the parasite may be much more widespread than previously thought.
As the number of cats in the United States has increased from 25 million to 60 million between 1989 and 2006, studies show that as many as one percent can excrete the infectious agents of the parasite. These can survive for at least 18 months, and a single one can cause an infection. The parasite can be passed to other animals as well, such as sheep and cattle, who may ingest the infected cat feces. Humans can then acquire the parasite by eating raw or undercooked animals that may be infected.
Similarly, children could acquire the infection from playing in sandboxes, and gardeners could acquire it from vegetable patches, because cats often relieve themselves in these areas.
Treatments do exist, but none are very effective. The good thing is that most people don’t suffer long-term effects, but some do, and researchers don’t yet understand why. They recommend that you should be careful when handling cat droppings and that pregnant women should probably avoid contact with it altogether.