While You're Pregnant - Toxoplasma
|Learn about foodborne illness and how to prevent certain foodborne risks during your pregnancy.
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What Is Foodborne Illness? | Listeria | Methylmercury | Toxoplasma
Toxoplasma: Frequently Asked Questions
"What is Toxoplasma gondii?"
It's a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat; unwashed fruits and vegetables; water; dust; soil; dirty cat-litter boxes; and outdoor places where cat feces can be found. It can cause an illness called toxoplasmosis that can be particularly harmful to you and your unborn baby.
"How could I get toxoplasmosis?"
You could get this illness by...
- Eating raw or undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb, or venison, or by touching your hands to your mouth after handling undercooked meat. See the Apply the Heat (PDF | 20.3KB) chart for the recommended cooking temperatures for meats.
- Using contaminated knives, utensils, cutting boards, and other foods that have had contact with raw meat.
- Drinking water contaminated with T. gondii.
- Accidentally ingesting contaminated cat feces, which can occur if you touch your hands to your mouth after gardening, cleaning a litter box, or touching anything that comes in contact with cat feces.
"How could toxoplasmosis affect me?"
Symptoms typically include: swollen glands, fever, headache, muscle pain, or a stiff neck. Toxoplasmosis can be difficult to detect. Some women infected with the parasite may not have noticeable symptoms - so a pregnant woman can easily expose her fetus to toxoplasmosis without even being aware that she's ill. That's why prevention of toxoplasmosis is very important. If you do experience any of the above symptoms, see your doctor or health-care provider immediately.
"How can toxoplasmosis affect my baby?"
In babies, T. gondii can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, and blindness. Some children can develop brain or eye problems years after birth. Children born infected with T. gondii can also require years of special care, including special education and ophthalmology visits. Early identification and treatment of children infected with T. gondii is essential in order to minimize the parasite's effects.
"How can I prevent toxoplasmosis?"
It's easy - you and your family should:
|Don't Drink the Water!
Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly when traveling in less-developed countries.
For Cat Lovers
Don't give "Fluffy" away, but be aware that T. gondii infects essentially all cats that spend any time outdoors. Cats get this parasite by eating small animals or raw meat that's been infected. The parasite is then passed on through the cat's feces. It doesn't make the cat sick, so a pregnant woman may not know if her cat has it.
Follow these tips:
- If possible, have someone else change the litter box. If you have to clean it, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.
- Change the litter box daily. The parasite doesn't become infectious until one to five days after it's shed in the feces.
- Wear gloves when gardening in a garden or handling sand from a sandbox because cats may have excreted feces in them. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards.
- Cover outdoor sandboxes to prevent cats from using them as litter boxes.
- Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Never feed your cat raw meat because it can be a source of the T. gondii parasite.
- Keep indoor cats indoors. Be especially cautious if you bring outdoor cats indoors.
- Avoid stray cats, especially kittens.
- Don't get a new cat while you're pregnant.
Note: If you have a cat and are concerned about exposure to Toxoplasma, talk to your doctor or health-care provider.