Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by a parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii. The primary hosts for this parasite are cats, but it can also be found inside the cells of other animals and humans.
Toxoplasmosis can be acquired through a contact with feces of an infected cat, by eating raw or undercooked contaminated meat or touching the mouth with hands after handling contaminated meat.
Symptoms and Complications of Toxoplasmosis
Many people are carriers of Toxoplasmosis infection but never experience signs and symptoms. However, individuals with compromised immune system and infants born to infected mothers may develop symptoms and serious complications of the infection. Medications like antibiotics and antimalarian drugs are used to reduce severity of toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis commonly causes flu-like symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes, muscle aches and pains, headache, fever and sore throat. The symptoms may last from a couple of days to several weeks. People with normal immune system generally do not require treatment for the infection.
On the other hand, immunosuppressed individuals, pregnant women and babies born with congenital toxoplasmosis may have serious complications of the infection such as damage to the eye, brain, nervous system and other organs.
Toxoplasmosis infection in people with HIV/AIDS can develop seizures and serious brain infection called encephalitis. If left untreated, encephalitis caused by toxoplasmosis is fatal. Also, individuals with weakened immune system experience recurrence of the infection. Complications in infants with congenital toxoplasmosis include feeding difficulties, seizures, hearing loss, blindness and mental retardation.
Prevention of Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis can be prevented. To reduce the risk of contracting the infection you should wear gloves when handling soil that may be contaminated with animal feces. Gloves are also necessary when cleaning pets’ litter boxes. When you finish with outdoor activities, wash your hands well with warm water and soap. It is especially important to wash hands before eating or preparing food.
Meat like lamb, pork and beef can be contaminated with toxoplasmosis parasites. Avoid eating such meat if it is raw or undercooked. Also, avoid tasting meat before it is completely cooked. To reduce the risk of getting infected with toxoplasmosis, freeze meat for a few days before cooking it.
When handling raw meat, wear latex gloves. Furthermore, it is essential to properly wash cutting boards, knives and other utensils with soap and hot water. Also, wash your hands thoroughly after preparing meat.
Wash fresh vegetables and fruits before serving and peel them. Unpasteurized milk and dairy products may be contaminated with toxoplasmosis and should be avoided.
Keep your children’s sandbox covered and your cat clean and healthy. Do not feed your cat raw meat but dry and canned cat food.