Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can be found in humans, animals and birds all over the world but is most commonly found in cats. Humans may become infected by the parasite by handling cat litter, eating foods grown in contaminated soil, eating raw or undercooked meat, or through various medical procedures such as blood transfusions and organ transplants.
People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infection. Common symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, muscle pain, blurred vision, mental confusion, seizures, sore throat, headache and enlarged lymph nodes of the head and neck. Those suffering with the infection but do not have any symptoms typically do not need treatment. Those who do experience symptoms can be treated with antibiotics. As mentioned above, toxoplasmosis is particularly dangerous for humans with weakened immune systems. If these types of cases are left untreated, the infection can spread throughout the body. This can sometimes be deadly.
Typically those who suffer from toxoplasmosis don’t display any symptoms at all. Many people have the infection without even knowing it, including that of pregnant mothers. Although symptoms can be mild for pregnant women, this should in no way diminish how very dangerous toxoplasmosis can be for a growing fetus.
Congenital toxoplasmosis can cause low birth weights as well as damage to the baby’s eyes, nervous system, skin and ears. Approximately half of all congenital toxoplasmosis cases result in premature birth. After birth, infected babies can experience hearing loss, seizures, mental retardation, jaundice, skin rashes, vision problems, diarrhea, vomiting, feeding problems and an enlarged liver and spleen.
As a preventative measure, pregnant women should not clean the litter tray under any circumstances. They should not touch any materials that could have possibly come in contact with cat feces. This includes flies, cockroaches, garbage bins, litter scoops, etc. Always cook meat until well done and wash hands frequently.