One child in the city has contracted typhus and now officials are setting traps at two schools to trap and possibly kill feral cats. Flea carrying urban wildlife in the city includes other animals, but the cats are being targeted.
Vector Control officials made the decision to set traps for cats near El Sol Science and Arts Academy and Frances Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana, CA after a child living in the area near the schools contracted typhus. The child was hospitalized in April and has recovered.
Flea carrying urban wildlife in the city includes other animals but eradication efforts are concentrated on the cats.
Santa Ana Police Animal Services supervisor Sondra Berg said, “We do have a colony of [cats] that live up here. It’s not uncommon for them to live in this area. It’s heavily populated, so there are a lot of food sources for them out here, and so they stay where they know where they have the food.”
Statements from Animal control, city spokesman Jose Gonzales and County Vector Control officials differ somewhat on whether all of the trapped cats will be killed. The most recent information from Vector Control states that fleas on each cat, possum or other animal trapped will be counted to asses whether the infestation is at normal or elevated levels, and indicates that cats can either be released or euthanized. Animal Control also indicated that some rather than all of the cats would be euthanized.
Traps set yesterday were said to have attracted possums but no cats. As noted above, Vector Control says they will examine the possum and other animals in addition to any cats they may trap. It may take up to two months for Vector Control to receive the results from the testing.
The plan has received local media coverage as a public health story, but has drawn criticism from animal advocates. Animal advocacy site YesBiscuit published a blog post on the subject yesterday, and n ational cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies issued a press release last night condemning the plan.
“This trapping ignores the basic scientific fact that typhus is not spread by cats—it is caused by a bacteria spread by fleas. Killing cats is cruel and is not a solution,” Alley Cat Allies’ Becky Robinson said in the organization’s public statement on the plans. The statement continued, saying “Epidemiologist Deborah L. Ackerman, M.S., Ph.D., notes that fleas are versatile parasites and will simply find another host, as dogs, raccoons, opossums, mice and all mammals as well as birds are potential hosts for fleas.”
City residents have been advised to provide their domestic cats with flea prevention treatment, and Vector Control officials are considering spraying the area around the schools for fleas.