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Infection danger posed by cats

5th September 2012

A report published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that 350,000 people are estimated to be infected by toxoplasmosis in the UK every year.

cat

The condition is caused by eating food such as unwashed vegetables or undercooked meat, or by contact with cat faeces.

Only a small number of people show symptoms of infection (around one or two in 10) and people who own cats have been told the risk can be controlled by general good hygiene.

Around 80% of people will be unaware they are infected and a small number of people will show flu-like symptoms. 

British Veterinary Association past president and veterinary surgeon Harvey Locke said: "The biggest threat is to pregnant women and those who are immuno-compromised, which we have known for some time. It is useful to reiterate that they should take extra care but there is no need for people to get rid of their pet cats or choose not to have cats as pets."

The FSA said it was important to remember to wear gloves when changing a cat's litter tray or gardening, to cook meat well and wash fruit and vegetables before eating.

FSA chief scientist Andrew Wadge said: "This thorough and detailed report points out key gaps in our knowledge about this parasite and suggests areas where more research is needed which will help us in estimating how much infection is due to food and which foods might be the highest risk."

"The report also suggests we look again at our advice to vulnerable groups and ensure that it reflects current scientific knowledge."

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