Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why are 'Cat Ladies' Crazy?

Quite possibly because they've been infected by a common parasite that often infect people via exposure to cats, and that is known to cause mental problems.

Beware of the cat: Britain's hidden toxoplasma problem 
A parasite spread by cats is infecting 1,000 new people every day in Britain – about 350,000 a year – according to an official assessment of the risks posed by toxoplasma, which can cause serious illness and has been tentatively linked with schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances.

Click here to see 'Feline menace: Life cycle of Toxoplasma Gondii' graphic

In news that will challenge public perceptions about the country's most popular pet, official figures to be published later this week will reveal the shocking levels of infection within the UK human population of Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that forms cysts in the human brain and other vital organs of the body.
Of course, toxoplasmosis is not only a threat in Britain, it is common among cats in the United States as well.

Toxoplasma infections come either through direct contact with cats or from eating contaminated meat or vegetables, tests on British blood donors have revealed.

Although the clinical signs can be mild, risk groups, such as pregnant patients with compromised immune systems, can suffer very serious side-effects, leading to congenital birth deformities, blindness, dementia and even death.

The true scale of the hidden problem has shocked experts who believe not enough is being done to warn the public of the known risks posed by toxoplasma, which they judge to be one of the worst food-borne illnesses because of the severity of its effects.
Georgia was warned about toxoplasmosis back the the ancient era when she was pregnant with our first kid, and we had a semi-free range cat.

Some experts call in The Independent today for the condition to be made a notifiable disease in England and Wales – meaning that medical staff must be put on alert – bringing the two countries on a par with Scotland, where infections must be reported on a national database. Others question whether families with young children should have pet cats, while some say advice on cooking lamb and preparing vegetables should be changed.

In addition to infections caused by direct contact with cats, people can pick up the parasite by eating the meat of infected animals or from raw vegetables that have not been washed properly to rid them of any toxoplasma eggs contaminating the soil.

About 80 per cent of infected people show no obvious symptoms of toxoplasma and are completely unaware that they are harbouring the parasite. However, new estimates suggest that up to 70,000 people a year in the UK develop some kind of symptoms.
 And probably proportionately as many in the US.

Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain has his Rule 5 linkerage on Monday this week.

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