Food Poisoning: Toxoplasmosis
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In the United States, more than 60 million people probably are infected with the parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system is usually able to fight the disease.1
What causes toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis can result from:
If you are pregnant when first infected with Toxoplasma gondii, you can give the infection to your baby.
You may also receive it through an organ transplantation or a transfusion, although this is rare.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with toxoplasmosis don't have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are often flu-like and may include swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks.
Severe toxoplasmosis results in damage to the eye or the brain. Infants who became infected before birth may be born with serious mental or physical problems.
Severe symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is affected. If the infection is in the:
How is toxoplasmosis diagnosed?
Because there are typically no symptoms, it is hard to know whether you are infected. If you think that you may have toxoplasmosis, talk to your doctor. He or she may do specific blood tests for toxoplasmosis.
How is it treated?
In an otherwise healthy person who is not pregnant, treatment is not needed. Symptoms will usually go away within a few weeks.
For pregnant women or people who have weakened immune systems, medicines are available to treat toxoplasmosis. For more information, see the topic Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy.
How can I prevent toxoplasmosis?
Because toxoplasmosis usually has no symptoms or only mild symptoms, most people don't need to worry about getting it. But if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, you should take steps to prevent toxoplasmosis.
What can you tell me about my cat and toxoplasmosis?
Cats only spread Toxoplasma gondii in their feces for a few weeks after they are first infected with the parasite. They rarely have symptoms when first infected, so most people don't know whether their cat has been exposed to Toxoplasma gondii. Good tests are not available to determine whether your cat is passing Toxoplasma gondii in its feces.
Otherwise healthy people should not worry about their cat and Toxoplasma gondii. But if you have an impaired immune system or are pregnant:
Your veterinarian can answer other questions you may have about your cat and the risk for toxoplasmosis.
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