Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease more common than is thought, which may or may not affect pregnancy. Discover its symptoms, causes and how to avoid contagion.
For those who have cats (like me), and at some point have considered the possibility of having children, it is more than likely that more myths or erroneous beliefs have reached their ears than reliable truths directly related to toxoplasmosis. It is normal in this sense to hear almost unbelievable phrases such as that for the simple fact of having cats and that the woman becomes pregnant, she is going to contract toxoplasmosis.
The truth is that, as we will learn throughout this article, there is more myth than reality. In fact, did you know that you are more likely to get toxoplasmosis by eating infected undercooked or raw meat (pork, lamb, and beef), or infected water and vegetables? Even infection can come from blood transfusions or solid organ transplantation.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is characterized as an infectious disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma Gondi. It is generally a mild disease, but it can become complicated and fatal, especially in cats and human fetuses.
The cat has always been related to being its definitive host, but the truth is that humans can also host it, and they have not necessarily had to be infected through the cat, as we will discover in the next section.
Routes of infection of toxoplasmosis
- By oral contact with infected water, soil, and vegetables (i.e., by ingestion).
- Blood transfusions or solid organ transplants.
- Eating raw, undercooked, or undercooked infected meat.
- Due to inappropriate contact with infected cat feces (that is, if you touch the feces and then inadvertently put your hands in your mouth, which is more than unlikely if you maintain basic hygiene guidelines).
Symptoms of toxoplasmosis
In general, toxoplasmosis may not cause symptoms, although symptoms do appear about 1 to 2 weeks after the person has come into contact with the parasite. May cause:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the head and neck.
- Muscle pains.
- Throat pain.
- Mild illness (resembling mononucleosis).
How is toxoplasmosis diagnosed?
If there are signs that the person is infected, especially in pregnancy, the most normal thing is to carry out a blood test to measure the levels of two antibodies. If it is positive, the specialist could request a new test in two or three weeks, which helps to confirm the initial results and thus specify the date on which it could have been infected.
How to avoid the spread of toxoplasmosis?
There are a series of basic tips that can be very useful when it comes to avoiding the transmission and contagion of toxoplasmosis:
- Avoid consuming undercooked meats.
- Wash your hands after handling raw meat.
- Remove the skin or wash the vegetables well before consuming them.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with soil possibly contaminated with animal feces.
- If you have an orchard or a garden, carry out the work with gloves.
In case you are pregnant, you can take even more precautions:
- Avoid cleaning cat litter boxes.
- Avoid touching anything that might contain cat feces.
- Avoid touching insects exposed to cat feces, such as cockroaches or flies.
Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy
In the case of pregnancy, the probability of the disease being transmitted to the fetus is lower during the first trimester, but the risk to the fetus tends to be more serious. However, in the third trimester the opposite occurs: the symptoms are milder but the risk of contracting it is higher.
The consequences for the baby can be mild or serious, and can cause a spontaneous abortion, the death of the baby at birth or its death shortly after birth.
Some babies may have symptoms at birth, such as jaundice, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), splenomegaly (enlarged spleen), heart or lung infection, enlarged lymph nodes (enlarged lymph nodes), and rash.
If the test results indicate that the mother-to-be has contracted toxoplasmosis during her pregnancy, the doctor may start her on antibiotics, which reduce the risk of transmission to the baby.
If it is confirmed that the baby also tests positive, for about a year he will be treated with antibiotics, which will help reduce the baby’s risk of developing new problems during childhood.