If you are already pregnant, you and your health care provider should discuss your risk for toxoplasmosis. Your health care provider may order a blood sample for testing.
If you have a weakened immune system, ask your doctor about having your blood tested for Toxoplasma. If your test is positive, your doctor can tell you if and when you need to take medicine to prevent the infection from reactivating. If your test is negative, it means you have never been infected and you need to take precautions to avoid infection. (See below).
If you suspect that you may have toxoplasmosis, talk to your health care provider. Your provider may order one or more varieties of blood tests specific for toxoplasmosis. The results from the different tests can help your provider determine if you have a Toxoplasma infection and whether it is a recent (acute) infection.
Once a diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is confirmed, you and your health care provider can discuss whether treatment is necessary. In an otherwise healthy person who is not pregnant, treatment usually is not needed. If symptoms occur, they typically go away within a few weeks to months. For pregnant women or persons who have weakened immune systems, medications are available to treat toxoplasmosis.
There are several general sanitation and food safety steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming infected with Toxoplasma.
• Wear gloves when you garden or do anything outdoors that involves handling soil. Cats, which may pass the parasite in their feces, often use gardens and sandboxes as litter boxes. Wash your hands well with soap and water after outdoor activities, especially before you eat or prepare any food.
• When preparing raw meat, wash any cutting boards, sinks, knives, and other utensils that might have touched the raw meat thoroughly with soap and hot water to avoid cross-contaminating other foods. Wash your hands well with soap and water after handling raw meat.
• Cook all meat thoroughly; that is, to an internal temperature of 160°F and until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices become colorless. Do not taste meat before it is fully cooked.
Yes, you may keep your cat if you are a person at risk for a severe infection (e.g., you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant); however, there are several safety precautions to avoid being exposed to Toxoplasma:
• Keep your cat healthy and help prevent it from becoming infected with Toxoplasma. Keep your cat indoors and feed it dry or canned cat food rather than allowing it to have access to wild birds and rodents or to food scraps. A cat can become infected by eating infected prey or by eating raw or undercooked meat infected with the parasite.
• Do not bring a new cat into your house that might have spent time out of doors or might have been fed raw meat. Avoid stray cats and kittens and the area they have adopted as their "home." Your veterinarian can answer any other questions you may have regarding your cat and risk for toxoplasmosis.
• Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change your cat's litter box daily. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box every day, because the parasite found in cat feces needs one or more days after being passed to become infectious. Wash your hands well with soap and water afterwards.
No, cats only spread Toxoplasma in their feces for a few weeks following infection with the parasite. Like humans, cats rarely have symptoms when first infected, so most people do not know if their cat has been infected. The infection will go away on its own; therefore it does not help to have your cat or your cat's feces tested for Toxoplasma.
This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider.
If you have any questions about the disease described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.
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