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Pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Those who are infected have very few 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.

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Your health care provider may suggest one or more types of blood test to check for antibodies to toxoplasma.

How can toxoplasma affect my unborn child?

If you are newly infected with Toxoplasma while you are pregnant, or just before pregnancy, then you can pass the infection on to your baby. Effects on the baby include: premature birth, low birth weight, fever, jaundice, abnormalities of the retina, mental retardation, abnormal head size, convulsions and brain calcification.

How is toxoplasmosis spread?

Cats play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis. They become infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals. The parasite is then passed in the cat’s feces. Kittens and cats can shed millions of parasites in their feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection. Cats and kittens prefer litter boxes, garden soils, and sandboxes for elimination, and you may be exposed unintentionally by touching your mouth after changing a litter box, or after gardening without gloves. Fruits and vegetables may have contact with contaminated soil or water also, and you can be infected by eating fruits and vegetables if they are not cooked, washed, or peeled.

How can I prevent toxoplasmosis?

  • Avoid exposure to cat feces; get someone else to change the kitty litter
  • Ensure that the litter box is changed daily
  • Keep cats off counters
  • Do not give your cat raw meat
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with your cat OR with contact with raw meat
  • Keep counters clean and cook meat thoroughly
  • When eating out, order meat well-done

Is there treatment available for toxoplasmosis?
If you are infected during your pregnancy, medication is available. You and your baby would be closely monitored during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.