LETTER: Toxoplasmosis is no great community health threat

— To the editor:

I don't take the threat of disease lightly. A recent letter regarding cats and the spread of toxoplasmosis was worrisome, so I did a little sleuthing.

According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

"In the United States it is estimated that 22.5 percent of the population 12 years and older have been infected with Toxoplasma." That's one out of five of us —worrisome indeed!

"Of those who are infected, very few have symptoms because a healthy person's immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness."

Okay, that was a little reassuring. The CDC continued:

"Healthy people who become infected with Toxoplasma gondii often do not have symptoms because their immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. When illness occurs, it is usually mild with "flu-like" symptoms (e.g., tender lymph nodes, muscle aches, etc.) that last for several weeks and then go away."

Breathing a little more deeply now. While it is correct that infected kittens and cats shed oocysts in their feces for as long as three weeks after infection, "mature cats are less likely to shed Toxoplasma if they have been previously infected."

A conscientiously maintained colony of community cats (some folks refer to them as ferals) consists of a stable population of mature, non-reproducing cats. They are, therefore, unlikely to be shedding oocysts — or litters of at-risk kittens.

According to Dr. Eric Barchas, a veterinarian and regular contributor to "catster" magazine, "Cats that are fed raw meat may contract Toxoplasma through their diets." A conscientiously maintained colony of community cats consists of a stable and constant group of cats who are fed by their caretaker. They are, therefore, less likely to be ingesting raw, infected rodents. Community cats might instinctively prey on rodents, but not for a food source; that is provided by their caretaker.

Toxoplasmosis should not be taken lightly. Good hygiene should always be practiced after going outside to commune with nature! But considering the scientific studies that illuminate the existence of toxoplasmosis in our environment, a well-monitored, well-fed, conscientiously maintained colony of spayed and neutered community cats does not appear to present an inordinate danger of disease to a community.

I’d worry more about an unchecked rodent population!



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