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What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a small single cell parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Of those who are infected, very few have symptoms because a healthy person's immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, pregnant women and individuals who have compromised immune systems should be cautious; for them, a Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems.
How do I get infected?
Pregnant women are at a higher risk due to a lowered immune system. A Toxoplasma infection occurs by:
- Accidentally swallowing cat feces from a Toxoplasma-infected cat that is shedding the organism in its feces. This might happen if you were to accidentally touch your hands to your mouth after gardening (if you cover your mouth to sneeze or cough), cleaning a cat's litter box, or touching anything that has come into contact with cat feces.
- Eating contaminated raw or partly cooked meat, especially pork, lamb, or venison.
- Touching your hands to your mouth after handling undercooked meat can spread the parasite.
- Using knives, utensils, cutting boards and other foods that have had contact with contaminated raw meat.
How can I prevent an infection?
No, you don't have to get rid of your kitty if you currently are or going to become pregnant. There are some easy ways to help prevent an infection:
- Ask another member of the household to clean the litter box. If they are unable to help then be sure to wear gloves and a mask, if you have one.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds as soon as you're finished cleaning. This will help prevent the spread.
- If you are going to be outside gardening, wear gloves and wash your hands soon after.
- If you are pregnant, do not consume raw or undercooked meat.
- When cooking, wash your hands and all utensils after working with raw meat.
Toxoplasmosis does not have to be as scary as it may seem. Remember, knowledge is power and prevention is key.
page last modified on: 8/28/2013