Toxoplasmosis

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats. '-Albert Schweitzer

I have known true cat lovers who, upon becoming pregnant, disparage the poor creature to all who will listen. They avoid the cat, insist that others change the litter box or unceremoniously boot Fluffy out the door.

If you're newly pregnant, it's only natural to be concerned about toxoplasmosis, but it's also important to get some perspective on this condition.

What Is Toxoplasmosis?
Millions of Americans live with the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii. A healthy immune system can usually avert serious infection. In pregnancy, however, changes in the maternal immune system may make women more susceptible to the parasite, and their babies may be at risk for acquiring congenital neonatal toxoplasmosis infection. Fetal infection with toxoplasmosis results when a non-immune pregnant woman is infected with toxoplasmosis, or if she has a history of toxoplasmosis during previous pregnancies.

About one baby in 10,000 in the United States is born with the infection. Hot, dry or cold climates hold lower risk for transmission.

How Can You Get Toxoplasmosis? Any warm-blooded animal is susceptible, but cats are the prime host for the parasite. Humans can get it through three routes:

-- Exposure to the parasite in dried cat feces, including contaminated soil or water you might encounter in a sandbox or while gardening.
-- Eating raw or undercooked meat that contains infective tissue cysts.
-- Congenital infection across the placenta during pregnancy.

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