If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and you spend time around cats, you should be aware of the risk of infection from toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii. Over 60 million people in the United States have the infection, and most never have any symptoms. Toxoplasmosis is not transmitted between people, except between a mother and her unborn child.
How can I get Toxoplasmosis?
The toxoplasmosis parasite can be found in cat feces from an infected cat, in contaminated soil or on vegetables grown in contaminated soil, or in infected meat. About half of all toxoplasmosis infections come from eating raw or undercooked meat. Cats can become infected when the animal eats an infected bird or rodent, or is fed uncooked meat that is infected. The parasite lives and reproduces in the cat’s intestines, so the eggs end up in the cats feces and in the litter box. Infected cats usually don’t have any symptoms, so you will not be able to tell if your cat is infected.
What are the risks of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy?
If you become infected with toxoplasmosis while you are pregnant, you can pass the parasite on to your unborn baby. This is called a congenital infection. The further into your pregnancy you are, the higher the odds that the baby will become infected. You will probably not have any symptoms but the consequences for your child can be very serious, including death.
Babies born with toxoplasmosis can have mental or developmental delays, cerebral palsy, or epilepsy. Toxoplasmosis can also cause damage to other organs including the eyes and can lead to poor vision or blindness.
Can toxoplasmosis be treated?
If the doctor determines that you have toxoplasmosis, you will probably be given antibiotics to reduce the chances that the baby will become infected. Your doctor can monitor your baby for signs that he or she is infected and provide more details about treatment options.
How can I keep from getting toxoplasmosis?