Risk of Pregnant Woman Catching Toxoplasmosis From Pet Cat

Like the cat-scratch disease, toxoplasmosis is a common disease in cats and can be transmitted to humans. The study has shown that six out of every ten cats are affected by toxoplasmosis at some stage of their life. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic illness that target warm-blooded creatures, including human. Its effects on both cat and human are mostly limited to flu-like symptoms. However, there are exceptions:

  • In pregnant women, the illness may cause irreversible damage to the unborn baby.
  • In an individual with a compromised immune system, the disease can sometimes be deadly.

 

Causes of Toxoplasmosis:
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii, it is prevalent in birds and mammals. Toxoplasma lives and proliferates inside infected cat’s intestines. The offspring discharges out of the cat’s body through cat defecation in egg-like forms. Several spores are released after a few days from these forms. The spores can survive for months until they are picked up by a rodent or bird. Inside these mammal bodies, the spores hatched and the parasites enter the bloodstream after tunnel through the gut wall and travel all over the body. Cats are infected or reinfected when they kill and eat the infected mammals.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Infected:
Stray and free-ranging cats are more likely to be infected by toxoplasmosis as they hunt and consume small mammals that could be a host of toxoplasmosis. The infection is usually harmless and the infected cat may not exhibit any sign of illness at all. However, kittens, elderly cats and cats with a weaker immune system may show signs of illness. If kittens are infected while in their mother’s womb, the implication could be serious.

Symptoms And Treatments of Toxoplasmosis In Cats:
Most healthy cats do not show any sign of illness when infected by toxoplasmosis. If they do, the cats may initially seem depressed, tired, disinterest in food, and fever. At later stage, pneumonia may induce breathlessness, liver damage may induce jaundice, and damages to eyes and brain may lead to blindness and changed behavior
There is no vaccine developed to prevent your cat from the infection. If negatively affected cat was treated sufficiently early with a drug that stop the parasites from multiplying, recovery is swift.

The effects of Toxoplasmosis on Human:
Toxoplasma will infect fifty percent of the population during our lifetime, but normally it causes nothing more than a short flu-like infection in humans. However, it can lead to serious issues if a pregnant woman comes into contact with it for the first time during pregnancy. The parasites may cause loss of the baby or the baby born with eyes or brain impairment. About fifty percent of infected pregnant women will infect the baby through the placenta. Out of this fifty percent, ten percent will result in grave damage. Immunodeficiency individuals such as HIV patients, cancer patients should be very cautious with toxoplasmosis as well.

Steps to avoid toxoplasmosis infection:
Consuming rare or undercooked meat, unpasteurized dairy products, or unwashed vegetables is the common mean of infection in America. Contaminated cat feces can be a source of infection as well.
Cook all source of meat completely. Food heated to 160°F (71°C) for not less than 15 minutes destroys the parasites effectively.

  • Wash thoroughly all cooking surfaces and utensils after handling raw meat.
  • Commercially prepared foods are safer for your cat.
  • If possible, keep them indoor to prevent them from hunting small mammals and birds.
  • Wash vegetables thoroughly and trim root end to remove any traces of soil.
  • Wear gloves when gardening and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Cover sandpit after play to prevent cats using it as a toilet.
  • Clear cat’s litter tray every day.
  • Wash litter trays routinely with hot water and detergent.

What if I am, or wish to become, pregnant?
Any woman who is currently pregnant or wishes to become pregnant in the near future should avoid raw foods as listed above and should avoid clearing out the litter box. Touching or petting a cat will not lead to toxoplasmosis, even a cat scratches or bites will not infect you with the parasites, unlike cat-scratch disease.