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Rescued monk seal dies after 5-week battle with parasitic disease spread in cat feces

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Monk Seal Generic

KONA, Hawaii (KITV4) -- A Hawaiian Monk Seal has died after fighting deadly disease in care at a dedicated hospital for monk seals on Hawaii Island.

The male monk seal -- RW22 -- died on Nov. 17 days ago following a more than five-week battle with the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis. The disease is spread into the environment exclusively from cat feces, officials wrote. They also said RW22 was suffering from the effects of ingested fishing gear and malnutrition.

“Toxoplasmosis is a complex and deadly disease that requires intensive daily treatment and management for an affected Hawaiian monk seal like RW22,” says Dr. Sophie Whoriskey.

Asked about the disease on Facebook – specifically how its spread -- center officials responded that feral cats are a leading cause as are domestic cats whose owners have either potty trained the animal or who may even flush its litter. There is no vaccine for toxoplasmosis, so preventative measures must be taken by the public, officials said.

“Toxoplasmosis is the number one disease threat to recovery of these endangered animals. The more partners and local communities can work to address this issue, the better for monk seals and other native species in Hawaii affected by this disease,” said Angela Amlin, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator at NOAA Fisheries.

The Center's experts plan to conduct a post-mortem examination. The team will send tissue and blood samples to NOAA Fisheries for further examination to confirm an exact cause of death.

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Matthew has been the digital content manager for KITV4 since September 2021. Matthew is a prolific writer, editor, and self-described "newsie" who's worked in television markets in Oklahoma, California, and Hawaii.

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