TOXOPLASMOSIS & PREGNANCY
TOXOPLASMOSIS AND PREGNANCY
WHAT IS TOXOPLASMOSIS?
Toxoplasmosis is the disease syndrome caused by a protozoan organism called Toxoplasma gondii. It affects most animals (most notably sheep, cats, and humans), but even insects, fish, and earthworms may be carriers. Because of the risk to an unborn child, many medical doctors go so far as to recommend that pregnant women do not keep cats as pets.
The problems described above occur only when someone is infected with Toxoplasma for the first time; that is, a person who has already had the infection is not likely to get sick again nor is she likely to transmit the organism to an unborn child. (It is estimated that one third of the U.S. population has already had Toxoplasmosis.) In general, people who do experience more than one acute episode are severely immunosuppressed (as from AIDS or cancer therapy.)
HOW DO PEOPLE GET THIS DISEASE?
There are two basic forms of Toxoplasma organism: the "oocyst," which is shed in the cat feces, and the Toxoplasma tissue stages, which live in the flesh of such food animals as hogs and lambs. A person who inadvertently eats either of these forms of Toxoplasma is liable to become infected. Raw goat’s milk is also an important source of infection.
IF MY CAT HAS TOXOPLASMA, WON'T HE BE OBVIOUSLY SICK?
Not necessarily. The form of feline infection which is contagious to humans is the "intestinal form" in which the cat sheds oocysts in its feces. The cat may or may not show diarrhea.
Cats may experience an acute illness similar to that which humans experience, however, in adults cats, symptoms are usually mild and go unnoticed. This form of infection is not contagious to humans, though a pregnant cat could transmit the disease to her kittens.
HOW IS MY CAT A RISK TO ME?
Dogs that eat cat feces can also shed oocysts that they have eaten for 2 days.
Your cat may be tested to see if he/she has already had Toxoplasmosis; a cat that has already been infected is unlikely to shed dangerous oocysts in the future.
The cat itself is not a source of oocyts, only its feces are.
HOW CAN I AVOID INFECTION?
Although it is possible to get Toxoplasmosis from cats, no correlation has been found between cat ownership and Toxoplasma infection. There is, however, a very strong association between Toxoplasma infection and working with raw meat as in a slaughterhouse or as a butcher. Be careful handling raw meat.
FOR MORE TOXOPLASMOSIS INFORMATIONAL SITES:
Page last updated: 7/31/09