COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A cat parasite is receiving national attention after multiple studies link it to schizophrenia.
It’s called toxoplasmosis, and it’s estimated more than 60 million people have it in the United States alone.
“I think that may turn out to be true in the long run that there may be a variety of things in conjunction with certain genotypes and so on that lead to schizophrenia down the road, but we have not worked that all out yet,” said Bill Leteson, medical officer with El Paso County Public Health. “It’s still a mystery.”
Those with a weakened immune system can develop a disease from the parasite that can cause miscarriages, fetal development disorders, flu, blindness and very rarely, death.
Most who are infected won’t notice a thing and will have no side effects, but if you’re a mother of an unborn child there is more at stake.
“They come out looking absolutely normal, but they may have eye problems,” said Leteson. “It can cause retardation. It can cause a number of neurologic problems.”
If you are part of the at-risk population experts suggest keeping your pets inside.
“They have to have exposure to rodents, such as mice, and be catching mice and rodents or have contact with infected meat,” said John Sudduth, veterinarian at Northwest Animal Hospital.
The meat to watch out for is raw, so it is best to stick to dry or canned foods. It is also important to keep the litter box tidy.
“Have someone other than yourself clean the litter pan, or wear gloves and clean out the litter pan,” said Sudduth.