ISDH: Toxoplasmosis

About Toxoplasmosis

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. The disease is a generalized infection that can occur without symptoms, or a mild disease causing inflammation of the lymph node, or a syndrome similar to acute mononucleosis. The disease has been found in most warm-blooded animals including pets, cattle, and humans. For most people Toxoplasmosis is a benign disease but can be life threatening to people with weak immune systems or can result in severe complications for infected fetuses.

How is Toxoplasmosis Transmitted?

People become infected with Toxoplasmosis in one of many ways:

  • When eating or handling uncooked or raw meat from infected animals.
  • When changing boxes of infected cats and then accidentally touching their mouths with their hands and before washing their hands.
  • When gardening or other exposure to soil contaminated by defecations of contaminated cats and then touching their mouths before washing their hands
  • When eating unwashed vegetables grown on contaminated soil.
  • Directly from the pregnant mother to the unborn fetus when the mother becomes infected during pregnancy.

Most infections are so mild that they do not cause symptoms. For those who are symptomatic, the most common symptoms are body discomfort, fatigue, fever, sore throat, and muscle pain. Some people may experience a mononucleosis-like illness with a wheal and swelling of the liver.

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An eye infection that rarely leads to vision problems can occur.

Immune deficiency may have a reactivation of a previous infection resulting in encephalitis or respiratory symptoms. Fetuses that are spread from their mothers can be born with vision problems, learning disabilities, or mental retardation. Other birth defects may occur and in some cases the baby may die shortly after birth.

How do I know if I have Toxoplasmosis?

You can not know without seeing your doctor. Your doctor will complete a complete history, review the signs and symptoms, perform a physical exam and laboratory tests to confirm whether or not you have Toxoplasmosis.

How is Toxoplasmosis Treated?

Most cases of Toxoplasmosis do not require specific drug treatment. For those who are symptomatic, pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine in combination or clindamycin may be used to eliminate infection. Other medications can be used to lessen the symptoms.

How can Toxoplasmosis be prevented?

To reduce the risk of cats becoming infected and expelling the oocyst, do not let them out; feed them only with cooked meats or with commercial cat food. Cats frequently become infected by hunting and eating rodents, birds, or other small animals. Infected cats excrete the infectious phase for about two weeks.

Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should take extra precautions to prevent Toxoplasmosis infection. Additional information for women is available at https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/disease.html.