Everything you need to know about toxoplasmosis
Have you been wanting to get out of changing your cat’s litter tray? If you are pregnant, you have a legitimate reason to pass this chore on to your partner.
Cat faeces can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that poses a danger to your developing baby.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma Gondii that can affect the unborn child if a pregnant woman becomes infected.
The parasite can also be found in undercooked meat, unpasteurised milk and garden soil.
“In pregnant women the parasite can cross the placenta and negatively affect the foetus, resulting in an increased risk of birth defects,” says Red Nose Chief Midwife Jane Wiggill.
“It can also cause skin rashes, nervous system damage, brain damage, liver damage, eye problems, and even miscarriage.”
But, explains Jane, there are small changes pregnant women can make to minimise their risk.
“Pregnant women are advised to avoid contact with cats, especially the litter tray,” Jane says. “Ensure your partner takes over all handling and cleaning of your cat’s litter tray as soon as you decide to try for a baby, and make sure litter trays are cleaned daily.”
Jane also advises taking precautions when preparing, handling or eating meat.
“The parasite can be found in muscle tissue of undercooked lamb, pork or kangaroo, so it’s important to wash your hands after handling raw meat, and make sure meat is cooked thoroughly.
“Avoid eating rare or medium-rare meat dishes, and also thoroughly wash chopping boards, knives and kitchen utensils that have come into contact with raw meat,” Jane advises.
Toxoplasmosis can also be found in soil. “Make sure you wear gloves while gardening, and wash vegetables to remove any traces of soil,” Jane says.
And what should you do if you think you have come into contact with the parasite?
In most cases, Jane explains, toxoplasmosis has no symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur they can include swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and pains, headache, and fever.
“If you are generally feeling unwell and are pregnant, please see your GP as evidence of infection can be found through a blood test,” Jane explains.