Toxoplasmosis is an infection that is caused by contact with a microscopic parasitic organism called Toxoplasma gondii. When contracted by a pregnant woman, it can pose a serious risk to her unborn baby.
Toxoplasmosis can be spread in several ways:
- Exposure to cats feces through touching your mouth and swallowing cat litter after changing cat litter.
- Eating fruits and vegetables if they are not washed or peeled.
- Eating undercooked or raw meat (especially lamb meat) and even by handling raw meat and not washing your hands afterward.
- Contaminating food with knives, utensils, cutting boards and other foods that have had contact with raw meat.
- Drinking water that is contaminated.
- Receiving an infected organ transplant or blood transfusion, though this is rare.
Prevention of toxoplasmosis infection:
- Wash your hands frequently. Wash hands with soap and water after any exposure to soil, sand, raw meat, or unwashed vegetables.
- Wash and/or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
- Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change the 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 hands well with soap and water afterward.
- 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.
- Freeze meat for several days before cooking to greatly reduce the chance of infection.
- Wash all cutting boards and knives thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use.
- Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox. Wash hands well afterward.
- Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly when traveling in less developed countries.