Toxoplasmosis or 'cat fever' is an extremely rare concern to fret over during pregnancy. Often most people feel the need to remove their pet cat from their premises because of the link between toxoplasmosis and cats. But contrary to this belief toxoplasmosis can also result from eating raw contaminated meat and not from contact with their cats alone.
Did You Know..
- Cat feces may be contaminated with toxoplasmosis gondii, a microorganism that causes this infection.
- If you have lived with your cat for some time, the chances are quite high that you may have already contracted toxoplasmosis and are probably immune to it by now.
- To check for the antibodies a blood test can be performed but before becoming pregnant. If there are antibodies to the virus you are probably immune and need not worry about developing toxoplasmosis. If you have no antibodies, you are not immune and so if you do develop symptoms a test by your doctor is necessary.
- The rate of infection is higher in people who consume raw meat and unpasterized milk. and who own cats.
- Unless you show symptoms, you are not likely to get tested during pregnancy.
- Toxoplasmosis becomes a real threat if the pregnant woman is exposed to this parasite for the first time during pregnancy.
- An affected fetus can be born prematurely, face low birthweight or develop serious central nervous system defects, and even stillbirth
Toxoplasmosis and the Fetus
- In the first trimester infection rate is the smallest while damage to the fetus is the highest. The damage generally involves the heart, neurological system, eyes.
- In the middle trimester the infection rate goes a little higher but the damage possibility is smaller comparatively.
- In the final trimester the baby is most vulnerable to infection but the risk of serious damage is the lowest.
- Fetal testing using fetus blood or through amniotic fluid around weeks 20-22 is possible
If a pregnant lady does become infected with toxoplasmosis a good amount of damage to the fetus is very likely. For that reason alone it is very important to minimize the possibility of infection to the very best you can by following these guidelines when you are pregnant:
- Avoid eating and touching raw meat, shellfish and drinking unpasterized milk. When eating out order meat well done
- Get someone else to clean the cat's litter box. If that is not possible then wear a mask and use gloves when handling cat litter. Change the litter every day. Do not be in close proximity with your cat e.g. allow your cat to lick your face.
- Take your cat(s) to the vet for a checkup to rule out active infection. If an infection is found get someone to take care of your cat for about 2 months to avoid transmission.
- If the test is negative, feed your cat store bought food and keep your pet indoors to prevent contracting the parasite from rodents, birds and raw meat
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly and wash your hands properly after handling uncooked meat
- Wear gloves when gardening in case you come in contact with cat fec
Toxoplasmosis Symptoms and Tests
- Most infected persons show no symptoms. Occasionally a few do develop flu-like symptoms: slight fever, swollen glands 2-3 weeks after exposure and a rash about 2 days later. But having lived with cats, the chance of coming down with this disease is very rare because you have already developed antibodies to toxoplasmosis gondii.
- In any case there are 2 tests. The first is performed to determine if you were ever exposed to toxoplasmosis by measuring antibody levels in your blood. The second test is performed to determine whether you have had a recent infection which you were ignorant about. Both tests are necessary if there is any possibility of exposure. The second test also becomes necessary if you develop a suspicious viral-like infection. Treatment for active infection involves a course of antibiotics.