Diseases in Marine Animals Could Portend Unhealthy Prognosis for Humans
According to Paul Sandifer, Chief Scientist for the new Oceans and Human Health Initiative in the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),"Marine mammals are providing early clues of our unseen impact on the sea, there is mounting evidence that our activities on land are taking a toll on the health of the oceans, and in turn our own well-being."
Pat Conrad from the University of California at Davis has said "Wildlife can serve as a source of infection, as we have seen with the avian bird flu, but they can also be sentinels of pathogen pollution. They are often the first victims of these diseases. By paying attention to them, it will tell us about our own health and the links between our health and that of the environment."
Pat Conrad initially focused his attention, first on the death of otters on the California coast, but she never imagined that this would lead her to establish the link to the brain parasite, Toxoplasma, with further links to the cats. The cat feaces gets into the environment from the lawns, sidewalks and then into the rivers, and the ocean, according to her.
Otters in the fresh waters area, as a result of this pollution stand a chance to be infected with Toxoplasma. Sea otters share the same waters as the humans do, so the land-sea connection is clearly established. Toxoplasma, according to the statistics, suggests that nearly 25% of the population may be infected with the parasite, but it only shows up as flu like symptoms. According to Conrad, when otters get toxoplasmosis, they really get sick. Therefore we need to be attentive regarding the flow of pathogens from land to sea.