X

Beluga Whales Infected With Cat Parasite

Poses health threat to Inuits
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2014 3:35 PM CST
Beluga Whales Infected With Cat Parasite
Beluga whales were found to host cat parasites.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The Toxoplasma gondii parasite, carried by cats, can cause rats to stop fearing the felines; in humans, it can cause blindness. Now, beluga whales in the Arctic have been discovered to have the parasite—and researchers fear it could infect the people who eat them. "The only way to kill (the parasites) is to freeze them, dessicate them, or boil them," a researcher tells the Independent. Trouble is, Inuits who eat beluga don't necessarily cook it thoroughly, the BBC reports.

story continues below

Toxoplasma gondii has turned up in more than 10% of belugas living in the Beaufort Sea off Canada, the Smithsonian notes. A health advisory has been issued to Inuits living in the area. How did a cat parasite manage to reach Arctic belugas? One possibility: After cats were brought to the region, their feces ended up in local water and, eventually, the ocean. Warming weather can also allow mammals who typically live further south and carry different germs to mix with northern populations. Click for more on how scientists are watching whales—from space. (Read more beluga whale stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.

X