Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Although many people may have toxoplasma infection, very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. Babies who became infected before birth can be born with serious mental or physical problems.
Toxoplasmosis often causes flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph glands, or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks. Mothers can be tested to determine if they have developed an antibody to the illness. Fetal testing may include ultrasound, and testing of amniotic fluid or cord blood. Treatment may include antibiotics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following measures to help prevent toxoplasmosis infection:
- Wear gloves when you garden or do anything outdoors that involves handling soil. Cats, who may pass the parasite in their feces, often use gardens and sandboxes as litter boxes. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water after outdoor activities, especially before you eat or prepare any food.
- Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change your cat's litter box. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box daily (the parasite found in cat feces can only infect you a few days after being passed). Wash your hands well with soap and warm water afterwards.
- Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant handle raw meat for you. If this is not possible, wear clean latex gloves when you touch raw meat and wash any cutting boards, sinks, knives, and other utensils that might have touched the raw meat. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water afterward.
- Cook all meat thoroughly, that is, until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices run clear. Do not sample meat before it is fully cooked.
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