Toxoplasmosis is a well-known and feared parasitic disease, as it is a zoonosis , especially serious if it affects pregnant women, as it can cause significant damage to the fetus.
Cats can carry and transmit toxoplasmosis , so if you are pregnant or have doubts about it, don’t miss this SoyUnGato article where we explain everything to you.
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What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii , an intracellular coccidium that can be located in animals such as cats, dogs, birds and is even capable of infecting humans. Only cats and other felines can be definitive hosts.
The disease usually runs in a mild way, so that we can have an infected cat without noticing any symptoms. If any sign occurs, usually ocular or cerebral, it is usually nonspecific, that is, common to multiple diseases, which makes diagnosis difficult. A cat with toxoplasmosis should be treated .
If it is a pregnant cat that is infected, the abortion of the kittens will almost certainly occur.
We will suspect toxoplasmosis and include it in the differential diagnosis if the cat has access to the outdoors and hunts, as it can contract the disease by consuming small prey such as birds or rodents.
Why is feline toxoplasmosis dangerous?
Although toxoplasmosis is not usually serious, its danger lies in the possibility of contagion to humans , specifically during pregnancy, since, if it affects the fetus, it can cause serious consequences.
Toxoplasmosis, therefore, is included in the group of zoonotic diseases, which are those pathologies of animals that can affect people, so it is essential to take precautions to avoid contagion, especially in children, less scrupulous with hygiene.
As in the case of cats, toxoplasmosis in humans is usually asymptomatic, in fact, many people are detected in blood tests and that is when they discover that they have passed it.
In others, however, ocular alterations or an enlargement of the lymph nodes may appear. In those with a weakened immune system, the disease could be more serious, causing brain damage .
The biggest problem, as we discussed, occurs when the parasite infects a pregnant woman. Depending on the moment of gestation in which you are, the damages can range from abortion to eye and brain injuries, malformations, mental retardation or deafness.
In order to diagnose this parasitosis, its detection through blood tests is included among the gynecological follow-up tests that are done to women during pregnancy.
If the analysis of the pregnant woman reveals the presence of antibodies, it means that the infection has already passed, so it will not require any special precautions during pregnancy, since her body could fight a new infestation, if it occurs, and the fetus would never be affected.
How Cats Can Spread Toxoplasmosis
Affected cats release oocysts , resistant spores in which the parasite remains until it finds a new host, which are released with the feces. This is the infective stage of the parasite, which means that if another animal ingests these oocysts, it will contract toxoplasmosis. Only the cat, as the definitive host, can eliminate them.
At this point, the new infested person can develop the disease manifesting symptoms or, on the contrary, as happens more frequently, it can occur asymptomatically. Toxoplasma is able to remain in different tissues throughout the cat’s life .
It is very important to know that cats with toxoplasmosis are not permanently infective, but that the phase in which they can infect is reduced to a few days. In addition, oocysts must remain 24 hours in the environment with certain humidity and temperature conditions to be activated.
Toxoplasmosis in Humans
People who contract toxoplasmosis usually do so through the following routes:
- Intake of fruits and vegetables contaminated by the feces of parasitized cats.
- Consumption of infected meat.
- Contact with contaminated soils.
- Raw goat milk intake.
- Intake of waters containing the parasite
It is very difficult for a cat to infect us with toxoplasmosis because the time that it is infective is short, the feces must be exposed to the environment for 24 hours and, most importantly, for the infestation to develop we would have to ingest them .
In addition, if our cat does not have access to the outside or eats raw meat, the possibility that it carries toxoplasmas is very remote. Therefore, even if the cat sitter is pregnant, maintaining basic hygiene rules, there is no reason to get rid of the cat under any circumstances.
We can prevent our cat from contracting toxoplasmosis if we prevent it from feeding on prey, that is, if we do not allow it to have uncontrolled access to the outside. Nor should we offer him raw meat.
Regarding the prevention of contagion in humans, it is convenient to observe the following recommendations, essential in case of pregnancy: [
- Wash fruits and vegetables with water.
- Do not consume raw or undercooked meat or, if you do, freeze it for 48 hours two days before eating it.
- Drink only potable or previously boiled or filtered water.
- Wear gloves for gardening work.
- Wash your hands very well if we handle raw meat or dirt without gloves.
- Pregnant women should avoid cleaning litter boxes, but if they have to, it is recommended that they wear gloves and a mask, since infective spores can also be inhaled.
- Cat feces must be removed within 24 hours. This includes maximum control of excrement found outside, especially in children’s play areas, since oocysts are very resistant in the environment.
- Wash the sandboxes with boiling water.