HEALTH & WELLNESS
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Cat Parasites that Can Infect Humans
Cats can carry and transmit certain parasites and diseases. Luckily some parasites that infect cats have no interest in humans, but unfortunately there are those eager to infect people as well.
While some parasites are just annoying, others can be dangerous or even deadly. If you’re a cat owner, we’re sure you want to keep your cat and your family safe from parasite infestation. After all, it’s the right, responsible and kind thing to do.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
You should know about cat parasites that can infect people, whether you’re a cat owner or not, because almost nobody is completely safe from exposure at some stage.
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that spread between animals and humans. Vector-borne diseases are infections transmitted by the bite of parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks.
CAT PARASITES AND DISEASES THAT INFECT HUMANS
People can get feline hookworms from exposing their skin to ground that’s contaminated with the faeces of infected animals. They don’t infect humans internally but the larvae can burrow into human skin. It can cause mild to extreme discomfort but it can be treated.
People can get roundworm from cats through contact with an infected cat’s faeces. Toxocariasis is a parasitic disease cats and people (mostly children) can get from ingesting toxocara roundworm eggs. The disease has two forms in people:
Visceral larva migrans: Larvae enters the lung, liver or central nervous system.
Ocular larva migrans: Larvae enters eye tissue, causing inflammation and scarring (possibly blindness)
When humans touch an infected cat, or ingest food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs, they can get echinococcosis. Tapeworms make their way into organs (typically the lungs and liver) where they grow over time and usually go undetected for years until cysts start pressing on the infected organs. Medication can get rid of tapeworm, but sometimes surgery is necessary to remove cysts.
Humans won’t get diseases from cats caused by tick bites, but ticks can swop their cat host for a human one. Infected ticks can transmit disease, for example tick bite fever (a bacterial infection), by biting their host. To keep your family and cat safe, you need to administer preventative treatment that kills ticks.
Flea bites can cause mild to severe irritation as well as allergic reactions in humans. Fleas can also carry tapeworm eggs. Cats with fleas need to be treated immediately and preventative measures should be taken to avoid future infestation.
Cheyletiella (or walking dandruff) are mites that can live on the skin of cats and other pets. They can cause skin inflammation (cheyletiellosis) in humans. The skin will typically be red and itchy with raised bumps. Fortunately it’s usually mild and doesn’t last long. Contact with an infested animal is all it takes for them to spread. You won’t necessarily know if an adult cat is infected, but kittens can develop dry, flaky skin in some patches.
- Cryptosporidium (or Crypto)
Crypto are tiny parasites that cause a diarrhoeal disease called cryptosporidiosis. They live in the intestine and can spread to humans who come into contact with the faeces of an infected cat. It’s most dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms need to be managed because there is no cure, but crypto can be prevented by practising good hygiene.
The toxoplasma gondii parasite causes toxoplasmosis disease. When cats kill and/or eat infected prey they can contract the disease and pass it to humans if humans somehow come into contact with infected stool. Medication is necessary to treat toxoplasmosis.
Speak to your veterinarian about the best parasite protection for your pets.