CA City Targets Feral Cats for Extermination After Human Typhus Case

On Friday, KABC in Los Angeles reported that a person who lives in Santa Ana had tested positive for flea-borne typhus.  Flea-borne typhus is associated with fleas who suck the blood of infected urban wildlife.  The disease is spread to humans when a flea has fed on a typhus infected animal and then bites a human.  It may also be spread through cuts in the skin of a person who comes into contact with feces from an infected flea.

I have seen no reports indicating the infected person is a child although health officials seem to be targeting area schools which has given some the impression that the victim may be a student.  Further, I have seen no reports indicating that the source of the exposure has been confirmed.  In fact, KABC reports:

Officials are not sure if the person contracted the disease in Santa Ana or another part of Southern California.

Today however, authorities seem to be under the impression that fleas from feral cats are to blame for the infection.  As such, health officials are setting traps at two area schools in order to catch as many feral cats as possible.  Every cat caught by the city will be killed.

It’s possible the city has more information than has been publicly released but it strikes me as odd that feral cats at two Santa Ana schools are being targeted.  Does the victim attend one of these schools?  Has it been determined whether the person even contracted the disease in Santa Ana?  The city reports that feral cats have been sighted in the area of the schools but I presume if lookouts were posted at the schools overnight, there would be sightings of opossums, raccoons and rats too.  Indeed the only animal the city has managed to trap thus far is a possum.

I hope the city is not rushing to take action here based upon appearances.  It would be reassuring to see some hard science and factual data in support of the plan to kill every feral cat possible at the two Santa Ana schools.  The notion that these cats could be carrying infected fleas is not enough to warrant this type of action.

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15 Comments

  1. Marilyn

     /  May 29, 2012

    Are they going to kill the opossums, raccoons and rats, too? Lets just kill all the feral cats now, use the typhus as an excuse and kill two “birds” with one stone! Unbelievalbe! I hope that they are stopped in their tracks before they murder innocent cats!

    Reply
  2. On Saturday, the L.A. Times reported (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/05/typhus-warnings.html) that it was a “Santa Ana child” who contracted typhus. Though, as you note, the link to feral cats is tenuous at best.

    Sadly, such weak connections are, these days, enough to make headlines and prompt a lethal roundup.

    It’s irresponsible for the media (e.g., KABC) and public health officials to suggest that a single roundup will do anything to resolve the issue. Or to omit, as KABC did, the fact (which you note) that these cats will be killed. Clearly, the cats have adequate food and shelter nearby. No doubt, more will arrive soon.

    Better to manage the cats through TNR than to kill just enough for complaints to subside—the usual course of action. Of course the “solution” being implemented demonstrates just how significant a problem this is NOT.

    And finally, note that Michael Hutchins, CEO/executive director of The Wildlife Society (which opposes TNR) commented on the Times story, claiming (without the burden of evidence, as is his habit) that TNR “puts more and more cats out into the environment where they can kill native wildlife and spread diseases. Public health officials need to take notice of this growing risk.”

    And so it goes: the feral cat witch-hunt. Lots of fear-mongering and precious little science. Or, common sense, for that matter.

    Peter J. Wolf

    http://www.voxfelina.com

    Reply
    • I would *think* the city would maintain the privacy of the victim, especially if he/she is a child. It won’t be hard for school kids to figure out who missed a significant amount of school recently and dub the kid Typhoid Mary or what have you.

      Reply
    • db

       /  May 29, 2012

      Is there anything we can do? Don’t live in CA but I love cats!

      Reply
  3. mikken

     /  May 29, 2012

    Sounds more like someone doesn’t like cats rather than any sort of rational thought process.

    Reply
    • And when people know nothing about community cats, the vacuum effect and TNR, that fear-mongering goes a long way. People are quick to jump on the catch and kill bandwagon when that is not the solution to a problem which likely did not exist in the first place. Based on location, any of you who have direct ties to Nathan may do well to make sure he knows about this one.

      Reply
  4. db

     /  May 29, 2012

    This just pains my heart – I agree that it does sound like an excuse to kill cats!

    Reply
  5. I may be a dog, but even I think this seems like what humans call ” a rush to judgement” here. This knee jerk reaction and decision to “Kill ‘em All” is barbaric and stupid.
    Who thinks like that ??! Ignorance is a bad thing and ignorant leadership needs to be changed. Make noise – and be sure you vote. This has to end .

    Reply
  6. So Much for Best Friends No Kill Los Angeles Initiative. It cant help Stupid such as the city leaders and Pound director. Where are BFAS when something heinous like this happens?

    Reply
  7. Jean

     /  May 29, 2012

    Just another excuse to kill cats.

    Reply
  8. I think someone needs a history lesson. Kill the cats and the rodents increase, causing even MORE disease problems….

    Reply
    • Jessica C

       /  May 30, 2012

      Exactly.

      This reminds me of when Nathan Winograd talked about the administrators at Berekeley wanting to kill all the feral cats on campus. They all banded together and it ended up working; cats were saved.

      Reply
  9. Dori

     /  May 30, 2012

    I lived near Santa Ana for almost 30 years. It was once a beautiful quaint town. Unfortunately, with the influx of people, it has been turned into a gang laden filthy cesspool of vile people. The thought process going into this action speaks volumes for the ‘intelligence’ in this disgusting gang crime ridden once majestic area. They should do the right thing, but like simple minded people, killing and exterminating is their answer.

    Reply
  10. Lisa

     /  May 31, 2012

    I would think they would want to be to be on the lookout for rats, and mice too. They are the ones that spread the typhus. The cats kill them, and consequently, they get the disease as well. I do hope the city doesn’t go into overkill spending money on exterminations that don’t need to take place. I don’t know if the City of Santa Ana uses their feral cat properly or not. Our city catches feral cats, neuters them, tags them, and sends them back into the feral population in order to keep down our rodent population. It works. If the feral cats get sick then they have to be taken because there is no one to give them their medicine, and most likely their immune system would never be strong enough to fight off other disease. If there is too large of a rat population, Animal Control must come in and take care of it.

    Reply

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