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Toxoplasmosis

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Toxoplasmosis is parasite-caused infection. Most people with healthy immune systems won’t even notice being infected with it. Muscle aches or other flu-like complaints are among the mild symptoms reported by the few people who do experience ill effects. In either case, the infection will run its course without treatment within a few weeks.

 

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It’s a totally different story for people with compromised immunity to disease and for women who are pregnant or about to become pregnant. Infection in an individual with a weakened immune system can result in severe toxoplasmosis, which can damage the brain or other organs and may cause vision loss.

Pregnant women who become infected with the parasite for the first time can pass it along to their unborn fetus. While only a small percentage of infected infants show symptoms of the disease at birth, toxoplasmosis-related eye and brain damage can occur among infected children later in life.

The toxoplasma gondii parasite infects humans through ingestion. The parasite can be present in soil, raw and undercooked meats, contaminated vegetables and in the feces of house cats. Cats contract the condition by eating small animals and rodents, such as birds and mice.

The following measures will help prevent infection:

 

  • In general, pregnant women should not clean a cat’s litter box or perform any work involving soil, such as gardening. (However, women who own “outdoor cats” and who plan to become pregnant can be tested for previous toxoplasmosis infection by their health-care provider. Most previously infected women need not worry about passing the disease on to their unborn child.) Anyone cleaning litter boxes should wash their hands immediately after doing so using plenty of soap and hot water.

  • Cook all meats thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160oF (71oC). If you don’t have a meat thermometer or it’s impractical to use one, this temperature is generally reached when none of the meat remains pink and its juices run clear.

  • After cutting or preparing raw meats, wash your hands immediately using plenty of soap and hot water, and do the same to cutting surfaces, knives and any other utensils to prevent cross-contamination of other foods.

Reference:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Toxoplasmosis:  Created on November 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on June 21st, 2011

 

References listed above credit sources The Housekeeping Channel consulted for background or additional information.

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