Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
My husband and I would like to have a baby. I have a cat so I am worried about something my friend said. She told me I should be worried about toxoplasmosis? What is this and should I be concerned?
Although it is uncommon, toxoplasmosis can be passed to humans through contaminated cat feces. However, this does not mean that you should not be around cats if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. You may want to consider being tested for the antibodies to toxoplasmosis prior to becoming pregnant. If you have already been exposed and developed antibodies to the infection, you cannot be reinfected. Regardless of your immunity status, however, it's always best to practice prevention. With proper precautions, the infection can be avoided.
It is important to note that it is more common to be exposed to the disease by eating uncooked or undercooked meat, so avoid undercooked meat if you are pregnant and do not feed uncooked or undercooked meat to your cat at any time. If you are pregnant, have another person clean out the litter box
every day. Even when you are not pregnant, make sure the cat's litter boxes are cleaned every day. Try to keep your cat indoors, especially if your cat tends to hunt rodents or birds, which are often how cats are exposed to the disease. Keep your cat off countertops where food is prepared. Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap after any contact with cat feces. Wear gloves while gardening and wash your hands when you are through, as the parasite can be deposited in the soil by infected neighborhood cats.
Most people who get toxoplasmosis do not get sick, but some people will develop swollen glands, muscle aches and feel as though they have the "flu". If you are pregnant and experience these symptoms and have reason to suspect you have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, consult your doctor immediately. Medication can be given in certain circumstances.
If you are concerned that your cat may have been exposed to, or has contracted, toxoplasmosis, consult your veterinarian. Most cats do not become ill from toxoplasmosis unless they are immunocompromised.
Currently there is no vaccine against the disease, but research on a vaccine to prevent shedding through the cat's feces is underway.