Feces, specifically from outdoor cats and wild possums, are the culprit in some severe and unusual marine mammal deaths.
A disturbing trend was found in a six-year study that monitored marine mammals in the Pacific Northwest. More than 5,000 dead marine mammals (dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, seals, sea lions and three species of whale) were observed, many of them suffering from encephalitis (brain swelling) long associated with Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite. The study was published by the National Institutes of Health in 2011.
The issue at hand is the feces from outdoor cats. The waste product contains T. gondii, a parasite that live its entire life cycle inside a cat. T. gondii also is happy enough in other animals, including humans and, as noted, marine mammals.
According to Scientific American, up to one-quarter of people in the U.S. house the parasite, and it is the reason why women are warned against cleaning cat litter boxes while pregnant (the parasite can cause birth defects).
Source: MSN News by Anastasia Poland