Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite and, contrary to popular belief, it does not only spread through cats. It can be taken at any age, but when you are pregnant it is good to increase preventive measures. You will find more information on toxoplasmosis by reading this article.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Let’s start by defining this disease: it is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that, in a short time, has the ability to expand into the cells of the host organism.
It is considered a zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The main guests of the virus are cats and six other wild cats.
Not all cats have toxoplasmosis. In order for the infection to occur, the cat must be infected. Domestic animals that stay indoors and eat cooked food or biscuits that do not come into contact with other cats cannot develop the disease.
On the contrary, if a cat leaves home, hunts birds or mice (and eats them), is fed raw meat or fights with another animal, it can easily be infected. When this occurs, the incubation phase of the parasite lasts up to 20 days. In the following month, he will release it through the feces.
In order for this to be contagious, it is necessary that they pass from 24 to 48 hours in contact with the external environment. An excellent precaution is to clean the litter once or twice a day wearing gloves and washing your hands well.
Another way to contract toxoplasmosis is to eat raw or undercooked meat (cooked at less than 76 ° C), unpasteurized milk or contaminated water.
Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: risk of infection
Although we can all take this parasite, the main risk group is pregnant women. It can cause spontaneous abortions or injuries to the developing fetus.
Toxoplasmosis, in most cases, shows no obvious symptoms. It can also occur three weeks after contact with infected feces or raw meat.
It can cause inflammation of the lymph glands (neck), sore throat or muscle aches, fatigue and fever. It can be confused with flu, an allergy, a cold or even with the typical symptoms of pregnancy.
During the first trimester of pregnancy, the parasite can cross the placenta and pass to the fetus causing an infection. This causes neurogenic distress, neonatal changes, hydrocephalus, convulsions, cysts in the retina (which cause eye diseases in the future) or bleeding.
Although the percentage of women with toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is low and fetal infections are still lower, some important prevention measures should not be ignored. Before starting a pregnancy, we recommend that you have a blood test that includes the Toxo test.
If it turns out to be positive, it means that you have already had this disease in the past and that you are immune (you will not have it again). If it’s negative, you’ll have to:
- Avoid taking slow-cooked meats and sausages.
- Consume foods of animal origin only if cooked at high temperatures.
- Carefully wash the fruit and vegetables, for example using baking soda.
- Take the cat to the vet for a check, feed him only croquettes or well-cooked food, prevent him from leaving the house.
- Do not come into contact with stray cats and do not adopt new pets.
- Clean your pet’s litter box every day using gloves and keeping the windows open.
- Perform all necessary medical checks during pregnancy.
- If you develop toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, be aware that the treatment includes specific antibiotics that you will need to have prescribed by your gynecologist.