August 16, 2010

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What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It can be contracted by eating meat which has not been properly cooked or through contact with cat feces.

Toxoplasmosis can cause flu-like symptoms in adults, or possibly no symptoms at all, but can be transmitted to the fetus.

Is Toxoplasmosis Harmful for My Baby?

If toxoplasmosis is contracted for the first time during pregnancy, the infection can be passed on to the fetus. Babies who have been exposed to toxoplasmosis in the uterus often have no symptoms at birth, but will later develop serious complications such as mental retardation and blindness. Some may have eye or brain damage at birth.

The risks to the baby are the greatest if infection occurs during the first trimester. Infection with toxoplasmosis can also cause miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation and preterm labor.

How do I Know if I Have Toxoplasmosis?

Your health care provider can perform a blood test for toxoplasmosis.

How Can I Prevent Toxoplasmosis?

You can protect your baby from toxoplasmosis by protecting yourself. Take extra care when washing your hands. If you have had contact with soil, raw meat, unwashed vegetables, or cat feces, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Be sure to only consume meat that is completely cooked. Freezing meat for several days before cooking can minimize the risk of infection through meat. Wash all cooking utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use.

Make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.

When gardening or in a sand box wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly following exposure.

If you have a cat, get someone else to change the litter box. If this is not possible, wear gloves when handling cat litter and wash your hands with soap and water afterward. Changing the litter box daily will help prevent infection from spreading.

Feeding your cat dry or canned food will help prevent infection. Raw foods can cause toxoplasmosis.

Do not get a new cat if you are pregnant.

Can Toxoplasmosis Be Treated?

If you have become infected during pregnancy, there are medications available to treat toxoplasmosis. If you have become infected your health care provider will monitor you and your baby closely.

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