Tune In to Animal Wise Radio Sunday!

Tune in tomorrow to Animal Wise Radio, when I’ll be catching up with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson. (It’s been more than seven months!) Among the topics up for discussion: toxoplasmosis, rabies, and typhus (oh, my!).

Listen online—and while you’re at it, why not show your support by “Liking” their Facebook page.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Targets Feral Cats

“The Barnett Access on the Little Red River is being overrun with feral cats,” reported last Tuesday’s edition of The Sun-Times, the local paper in Heber Springs, Arkansas. “Due to the interaction between the public and feral cats, and the risk to human health, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is going to begin a trapping effort in July to remove the cats.” [1]

Interaction between the public and feral cats?

Huh. The feral cats I’m familiar with don’t really interact with the public. They’re… you know, feral.

What’s going on here?

“Tom Bly, fisheries biologist with the AGFC said that feral cats are considered an invasive species by conservation agencies and organizations nationwide. ‘Cats are the most significant invasive species affecting native bird populations and are also estimated to kill twice as many mammals as birds. There are also numerous human health concerns associated with feral cat colonies. Through feces, fleas, bites, or scratches cats can pass a variety of parasitic, bacterial and viral illnesses including rabies, toxoplasmosis, hook worms, and typhus,’ Bly said.” [1]

Sounds like Bly’s been drinking TNR opponents’ Kool-Aid. Read more

Oregon Man Diagnosed with Plague

According to last Friday’s USA Today, “Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.”

“State public health veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess said the man was infected when he was bitten by the stray his family befriended. The cat died and its body is being sent to the CDC for testing.”

Other news reports suggest that the source of the bacteria—which might have been the rodent—remains uncertain. (Indeed, the fact that the cat’s body was submitted for testing suggests, that there is some question about this. The cat’s death—also unexplained—raises additional questions.)

“Humans usually get plague,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website, “after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague.” Read more

Santa Ana Protest Cancelled

The protest originally planned for tomorrow morning has been cancelled following news that the traps have been removed from Willard Intermediate School and El Sol Science and Arts Academy. According to today’s Orange County Register:

“Traps to catch feral cats have been removed from two Santa Ana school campuses, where public health officials have been trying to stop the spread of typhus, a city official said Friday.

The traps provided by Orange County Vector Control were removed Wednesday afternoon, just a day after they were set at El Sol Science and Arts Academy in the 1000 block of North Broadway and Willard Intermediate School in the 1300 block of North Ross Street, city spokesman Jose Gonzalez said.

Santa Ana city officials decided to pull the traps because there wasn’t a clear-cut plan as to how the cats were going to be handled, Gonzalez said.”

The paper goes on to note, “No cats were trapped, tested or euthanized.”

“‘We are changing our focus and attacking the real problem, which are the fleas,’ Gonzalez said. ‘The main issue right now is to safeguard the community and reduce the risk of typhus.'”

No doubt the immediate response from feral cat advocates—the scale of which, I suspect took city and county officials by surprise—played a role in their decision to change focus. Well done.

Flea Circus Gives Way to Media Circus

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing, February 12, 2002

The more we learn about the typhus scare in Santa Ana, CA, the less we know. For example:

According to Saturday’s Los Angeles Times, this whole episode began when a “Santa Ana child contracted typhus.” On Tuesday, however, KTLA-TV claimed it was “an adult who has no connection to the school [Willard Intermediate, one of two trapping sites] whatsoever.”

Frankly, I’m less interested in the age of this individual than the suggestion that he or she has no connection to the site where Orange County Vector Control is trapping cats. If there’s no connection, why are they trapping there? Read more

Follow-up Items

A few follow-up items related to my past couple of posts: the first sheds some additional light on the Santa Ana typhus scare, while the second provides a little historical context to The Sacramento Bee’s recent reporting on Wildlife Services.

1. Typhus, Fleas, and Cats
Somehow I missed press releases from both Stray Cat Alliance and Alley Cat Allies, both issued yesterday in response to the Santa Ana typhus scare. (My apologies!) Below is the SCA release in its entirety (as I’ve been unable to find a link). The ACA release can be found here. Read more

Santa Ana Typhus Scare

“In an effort to combat a potential typhus outbreak,” reports today’s Los Angeles Times, “city officials zeroed in on two schools in [a] densely packed [Santa Ana] neighborhood and set a dozen traps to catch feral cats and other animals that might carry disease-bearing fleas.” [1]

“The hope is that by trapping and testing animals caught at Willard Intermediate School and El Sol Science and Arts Academy, officials will be able to determine if a recent case of typhus—the first in Santa Ana this year—originated in the community. In late April, a child was hospitalized as a result of the virus, which is caused by bacteria found in infected fleas and their feces. The child was later released.”

Read more