Toxoplasmosis: How It Spreads, Symptoms, Potential Complications And 9 Tips To Prevent The Infection

Date December 21, 2017 16:56

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by parasites called Toxoplasma gondii and is usually spread through contact with cat feces. According to the CDC, more than 60 million Americans may be affected by it. Toxoplasmosis usually isn’t problematic for healthy adults. If you are healthy and contract toxoplasmosis, your immune system will keep it in check.

However, there are two groups of people who should take precautionary measures to avoid becoming infected: pregnant women and people whose immune system is compromised. Toxoplasmosis can harm unborn babies and cause severe complications in those with a weakened immune system.

How do people become infected with toxoplasmosis?

There are certain situations in which a person is likely to get infected with toxoplasmosis.

They include:

  • accidentally touching your mouth after cleaning a cat’s litter box;
  • eating contaminated meat (especially lamb, pork, and venison) that wasn’t cooked thoroughly;
  • eating contaminated vegetables that haven’t been washed thoroughly;
  • eating food that came into contact with unwashed utensils and surfaces used to prepare meat;
  • drinking contaminated water;
  • unborn babies have high chances of getting the infection from mothers with active toxoplasmosis;
  • getting an infected organ transplant or infected blood transfusion (such cases are extremely rare).

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

Healthy people normally don’t experience any symptoms. In some cases, symptoms may appear and include the following:

  • fever;
  • fatigue;
  • headache;
  • a sore throat;
  • swollen lymph nodes;
  • aching muscles.

The symptoms will likely go away on their own within a few days to a few weeks.

Toxoplasmosis can cause serious complications in people with impaired immune systems. Such complications may include:

  • inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which manifests in fever, headache, confusion, seizures, and even coma;
  • lung infection, with symptoms such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath;
  • eye infection, which manifests in eye pain and blurry vision.

If a fetus becomes infected, it may lead to a miscarriage in some cases. Babies who were infected while still in the womb may have severe birth defects, including eye damage and brain damage. Most babies who were infected before being born show no symptoms at birth, but may develop serious complications later in life, including hearing and vision loss, and mental disability.

If a pregnant woman learns she’s recently become infected, she will likely be treated with antibiotics.

Are there ways to prevent toxoplasmosis?

The chances that you have already had the infection are pretty high. If that’s the case, you have developed immunity and will not become infected for the second time. But if you’ve never been infected with toxoplasmosis, you can take some measures to prevent the infection. This is especially important for pregnant women and people whose immune system doesn’t function well.

To reduce your risk of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis, do this:

  1. Eat only well-cooked meat and seafood.
  2. Avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products, especially goat milk.
  3. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, especially if you plan to eat them raw.
  4. Put on gloves before gardening.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and warm water after outdoor activities.
  6. Avoid contact with stray cats and kittens.
  7. Keep your own cat indoors.
  8. Don’t feed give your cat raw or undercooked meat.
  9. Clean your cat’s litter box daily and wash your hands with soap and water immediately after you’re done; if you’re pregnant, ask someone else to do the job.

Source: CDC, Mayo Clinic, MedicineNet, HealthLine

READ ALSO: 7 Health Tips For Women Who Are Planning To Have A Baby

This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.