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Cat-carried parasite infecting 1-in-5 people

1:30 PM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA - A new report from a UK-based agency confirmed information about a disease the CDC says is a "major neglected parasitic infection."

The CDC says toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that infects cats and causes toxoplasmosis, a disease which affects 22.5 percent of the human population in the United States, or about 1-in-5 Americans. CDC officials said toxoplasmosis is one of the leading causes of death attributed to food-borne illnesses in the US.

Toxoplasmosis often has no symptoms, but it can cause serious illness and even death to people with an immunodeficiency, like newborns, people undergoing chemotherapy and AIDS patients.

The only known host of the parasite is the domesticated cat, though other animals or humans may carry the parasite as an intermediate host.

Until recently, it was thought that most transmission came from undercooked meat, while newer studies suggest more environmental contamination from cat feces is occurring than was initially thought.

There are some simple steps that people can take to avoid becoming infected:

-Clean the litter box at least once every 24 hours.
-Pregnant women or people who are immune deficient should avoid cleaning the litter box. If they must, they should wear proper protective equipment like gloves and a mask. 
-Wash hands after cleaning the litter box or handling pets. 
-Maintain regular visits with your veterinarian. BluePearl recommends taking your pet to your family veterinarian twice a year for checkups. 

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