toxoplasmosis

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. An estimated 60 million people in the U.S. carry the parasite.  However, many people do not experience symptoms, because a healthy person’s immune system will keep the parasite from making them sick.

Who is at risk for toxoplasmosis?

Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should be cautious, because Toxoplasma could cause serious disease.

How is toxoplasmosis transmitted?

Toxoplasmosis can occur by:

  • Consuming raw or undercooked meat
  • Accidental ingestion of raw or undercooked meat – toxoplasmosis can transmit through intact skin
  • Eating food cross-contaminated with raw or undercooked meat
  • Drinking water contaminated with toxoplasmosis
  • Accidentally swallowing the parasite through contact with infected cat feces
  • Mother-to-child (congenital) transmission
  • Receiving an infected organ transplant or blood transfusion, although this is rare

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

Symptoms can vary, but may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms including swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches
  • Severe toxoplasmosis can cause damage to the brain, eyes, and other organs
  • Problems with the eyes including reduced vision, blurred vision, pain, redness, etc.
  • Infants infected in the womb may have brain or eye damage later

What should I do if I believe I am at risk for toxoplasmosis?

If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, your doctor may test you for Toxoplasma. If you test positive, you may have had the parasite at one point in your life, and normally have little to worry about.  If you test negative, take the recommended precautions (below).

What should I do if I think I have toxoplasmosis?

Pregnant women who test positive usually have little to worry about.  Pregnant women who test negative should talk to their doctor about treatment to prevent spreading the disease to the baby. People with compromised immune systems who test negative should talk to their doctor about medication that can prevent toxoplasmosis.

How is toxoplasmosis treated?

If you have a confirmed toxoplasmosis diagnoses, talk to your doctor to see if treatment is necessary.  Otherwise healthy people rarely require treatment. If you are showing symptoms, they will usually go away within weeks or months.

How can I prevent toxoplasmosis?

  • Cook meat to proper temperatures
  • Avoid unpasteurized products
  • Avoid raw or undercooked meat
  • Avoid cross-contamination
  • Thoroughly wash and peel fruits and vegetables
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat

For more information on toxoplasmosis, click here.