Toxoplasmosis is a disease that’s killing off native animals and marine life, and some experts believe cats may be to blame.
Experts at a public forum held at the University of Hawaii Saturday explained the disease can also be dangerous to humans, especially expectant mothers.
“If a human female is infected with a parasite, she gets infected at certain stages in pregnancy. You can have fetal abnormalities.” Said Thierry Work, with U.S. Geological Survey.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. It can lead to hydrocephaly, which leads to a swollen skull in babies. The parasite can also cause inflammation of the retina in humans.
“We’ve also seen this parasite killing Hawaiian birds, Hawaiian ducks, red footed boobies, and Hawaiian geese.” Said Work.
The parasite has also been linked to the extinction of Hawaiian crows. It’s spread by a parasite exiting through a cat’s feces.
Experts say toxoplasma can also infect marine animals, and has been linked to the deaths of at least eight monk seals. Experts say runoff contaminated with cat feces can spill into the ocean, where the parasite can spread to marine life.
“That’s a gross understatement in my mind of the actual illness and deaths that are associated with these.” Explained Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator of the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.
Experts urge everyone to be careful, by making sure to wash your vegetables and hands thoroughly, cover sandboxes, and feed house cats commercial food.