London: Pet cats pose a serious risk of illness and even death to humans, experts have revealed.
A thousand people a day are infected with a parasite called toxoplasma that is carried by the feline, as a result up to 70,000 people become ill every year.
The parasite can cause birth defects, blindness and dementia and has been linked with diseases like schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances.
It is carried mainly by cats, as they are the only animals it can reproduce inside, the Daily Express reported.
According to a research by the Food Standards Agency, it can be transferred on to the humans if they eat contaminated food.
In particular the study shows that some sheep have been exposed to parasite after coming in contact with cat faeces, meaning that humans could be infected by eating an under-cooked lamb.
Humans are also at risk from food or water that has been contaminated with cat faeces or from contact with cat litter. The parasite also poses a serious risk to babies in the womb.
It is said that one in a hundred of Britain’s eight million cats could carry the bug.
The Food Standards Agency is expected to highlight the scale of toxoplasma infections in its “risk profile.”
“Toxoplasma is more important, or as important, as salmonella,” Richard Holliman of St George’s Hospital in London, said.
“It can be devastating. A child born with congenital Toxoplasma is damaged for life,” he added.
Experts want toxoplasma to be included into notifiable diseases.