A Toxoplasma infection is caused by a parasite, which is mainly spread by feces from cats. If a pregnant person becomes infected, the infection can cause damage to the fetus. Therefore, you who are pregnant should try to reduce the risk of infection, for example by avoiding the feces of cats.

How to transmit toxoplasma infection?

People are most often infected by feces from an infected cat. You can get infected if, for example, you get the parasite on your hands, and then get it through your mouth.

In addition to cats, other mammals can be infected by the parasite. Then you may become infected if you eat raw or insufficiently heated meat from these animals. This applies especially to meat from lamb or pig, but sometimes meat from cattle may also contain the parasite.

The infection can also spread through fruits, berries or vegetables that have come into contact with soil contaminated with the parasite, but it is very uncommon. 

The disease does not infect humans.

You can only get infected once

You are immune to the rest of your life if you have had a toxoplasma infection. However, if you have a reduced immune system due to other diseases, the disease can become chronic. 

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There is a risk that the parasite is transmitted to the fetus if you are pregnant and become infected for the first time.

Getting infected early in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or damage to the brain, eyes or ears of the fetus. Children who are infected after birth receive no injuries.

Toxoplasma does not infect through breastfeeding.

How can I reduce the risk of being infected?

There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Rinse vegetables, fruits, and berries before serving.
  • Avoid eating raw or inadequately cooked meat. The parasite dies if the meat is heated to at least 65 degrees. The parasite also dies if you freeze the meat.
  • Wash your hands after contact with soil and sand.
  • Wash the kitchen knives after contact with meat.

Be extra careful if you are pregnant

In addition, you who are pregnant should pay attention to the following:

  • Avoid contact with cat feces. If possible, have someone else clean the litter box if you have a cat. Otherwise, use gloves and wash your hands carefully afterward.
  • You should also be careful about other places where cats may have pooped, such as sandboxes at playgrounds.
  • Avoid vegetables and fruits that are not rinsed if you go abroad.
  • Avoid contact with cats if you go abroad. For example, the parasite is very common in cats in central and southern Europe.

Symptoms

Most often you do not notice that you have toxoplasma infection. Some who get sick get a fever, headache, get tired and get swollen lymph nodes for several weeks. 

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health care center if you are pregnant and have a fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Contact a midwife if you are pregnant and are concerned about a toxoplasma infection.

Investigation

With a blood test, you can see if you have or have had a toxoplasma infection

Treatment for toxoplasma infection

Usually, no treatment is needed, as the disease goes away by itself. If you need treatment, you will receive antibiotics.

Treatment if you are pregnant

You will be treated with antibiotics if you are pregnant. Any damage that the infection has caused in the child does not heal, but the treatment for toxoplasma infection can prevent the child from getting more injuries. When the baby is born, they receive more treatment if needed. 

Muhammad Nadeem

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