Pregnancy is a special time filled with emotion and the anticipation of a new baby. It is also a time many women are cautious about health risks and behaviors which might affect the health of their baby. However, there is no need to give up your beloved pet if you follow a few common sense precautions.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite disease caused by the single-celled protozoa called toxoplasma gondii.
How is it transmitted?
Cats are the only animal species to shed the infectious stage in their feces. This usually only occurs once in the lifetime of most infected cats, lasts only 10-15 days and the feces are not infectious until 1-5 days after being defecated. Human infections from direct contact with cats shedding the infectious stage are rare. Pet cats are NOT the most likely source of toxoplasmosis. All animals, however, can transmit toxoplasmosis if their infected meat is eaten. The most common ways humans become infected is if they ingest raw or partially cooked meats, or food, water or garden soil contaminated with infected cat feces.
What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?
It is estimated that 30% of people are exposed, with minimal or no symptoms, unless the infected person is young or their immune system is not functioning properly. The symptoms are flu like and include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, headache and sore throat.
What if I'm pregnant?
You can be tested for antibodies to toxoplasma. If you test negative and become infected with toxoplasmosis during early pregnancy, you risk spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or having a baby with birth defects. If a woman is infected in late pregnancy, she will most likely not transmit the disease to the fetus. If you test positive, you have already been exposed to toxoplasma in the past and therefore have built up antibodies to protect yourself and the fetus from infection. Therefore, you are NOT at risk.
Guidelines for the Prevention of Toxoplasmosis