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Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can have devastating effects on an unborn child, and many women have been erroneously advised to get rid of their cat if they are pregnant, says Susan Nelson, veterinarian and clinical professor at Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center.
"Toxoplasmosis is a devastating disease for some but with proper precautions, a woman does not need to rehome her cat if she becomes pregnant," Nelson said.
Toxoplasmosis - Parasite - Toxoplasma - Gondii - Areas
Toxoplasmosis is a single-celled parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. It is most commonly found in areas with hot, humid climates and situated in lower altitudes. More than 60 million people in the U.S. may be infected with the parasite and up to 95 percent of people in some areas of the world may be infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, most people with a healthy immune system will experience only mild symptoms if infected. The organism can cause serious health issues for those people who are pregnant or immunocompromised, Nelson said.
Although people can contract toxoplasmosis from cats, the most common ways to acquire the disease include eating and handling raw meat; drinking unpasteurized goat's milk; eating and handling raw vegetables; drinking contaminated water; and gardening. Other less common modes are eating raw or undercooked oysters, mussels and clams.
Toxoplasmosis - Child - Mother - Pregnancy - Woman
Toxoplasmosis is most likely to be spread to an unborn child when the mother is infected just before becoming pregnant or during pregnancy. Even though a pregnant woman may not experience any symptoms, the disease can cause miscarriage of the fetus, a stillborn child or severe damage to the eyes and nervous system of the child, which may not develop until later in life. Women can be tested prior to pregnancy to see if they have already been exposed to toxoplasmosis, as transmission of the disease to an unborn child...
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