What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is found most often in cats, but can also be transmitted to food and other items, and eventually to humans.
What are the symptoms?
This disease manifests itself in the mildest form in humans, and at times you may not even realise that you are carrying the virus. Sometimes it has no symptoms, and at times toxoplasmosis exhibits mild flu-like symptoms. BUT, if a pregnant woman is carrying the virus, it can be fatal to her unborn baby.
- Could damage the baby's brain
- Could damage the baby's eyes
- Could cause severe retardation at birth
- Could cause a miscarriage
How can you avoid contracting this diseases?
It's all about hygiene. Remember what your parents taught you when you were a kid? It's time to put all those basic rules into practice.
- Always, always wash your hands before eating.
- Always wash your hands after using the bathroom.
- Cover food kept in vessels so flies don't sit on them.
- Never eat foods after the expiry date. Always check the date of manufacture when buying a food item.
- Don't eat leftovers that are more than 2 days old.
- Steer clear of uncovered foods, as flies may have sat on them.
- Always use clean utensils.
Toxoplasosis also gets transmitted through the raw meat of an infected animal (eg. beef). So make sure you cook it well, and when you re-heat non-veg leftovers, do so till they are steaming.
While storing raw meat in your refrigerator, cover it well so the juices don't drip on to other foods.
Additional precautions for pregnant women
While these are basic hygienic precautions everyone should take, there are certain additional precautions that a pregnant woman should take, which include:
- Avoid dishes containing raw eggs.
- If you have a cat, don't clean its litter.
- Stay away from the feces of your cat or dog.
- Keep your cat indoors as much as possible, during the time you are pregnant.
- Avoid soft cheeses.
- Drink only boiled and pasturised milk.
- Avoid gardening during your pregnancy.
- Wash your hands as often as possible.
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly under running water, before eating them.
- Don't eat raw shellfish or rare meat.
Could you be immune?
If you have had this disease before, it is more than likely that you've developed an immunity to it, but only if you've had it at least 9 months before you were pregnant. This is because the virus strains would still be in your blood and are capable of causing damage to your fetus even 8-9 months after you've had the disease.
Visit your doctor
If you feel you may have contracted the disease and are pregnant, visit your doctor immediately for a check-up. He can put you on antibiotics to reduce the likelihood of the virus reaching the fetus.