Warning Signs – What is toxoplasmosis

First identified in 1908, Toxoplasmosis is caused
by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Incidences of the infection
have been documented in nearly all mammals, including humans. In fact, nearly a
third of Americans and Europeans carry the antibodies to Toxoplasma, indicating
that they have previously encountered the

The cat is considered to be one
of the most common hosts, largely because they ingest the small animals that
carry the infection, like mice and birds. From cats, the disease is spread
through feline feces, in the form of oocysts that can survive temperature
extremes. However, it is a common misconception that cats are the sole source of
Toxoplasmosis. Meat sources, like pork, lamb and poultry have been known to
carry the parasite, so it is very important that you freeze these meats for at
least 24 hours and cook above 152° F to kill the Toxoplasma.

There are two groups of people most at risk for the
disease – those who are pregnant and those with immune deficiencies.
Children born with Toxoplasmosis generally do not show symptoms until later in
life, when they may exhibit loss of vision, loss of hearing and signs of mental
retardation. While this sounds frightening, pregnant women can have cats in the
home as long as they let someone else clean the litter

Additionally, there are steps that
all of us can take to help prevent Toxoplasma infection in cats, including

• Not feeding cats
undercooked meats (in general, we advise a reputable, nutritious canned food
like Instinctive Choice or healthy dry food like Life’s

• Keeping cats indoors, so
they cannot hunt wild birds and rodents

Talking to your vet about available vaccinations to prevent the shedding of
infectious oocysts

To limit your own
exposure, be sure to cover sand boxes when not in use to discourage stray cats
from using them as litter boxes. And finally, be sure to wash your hands with
soap after handling raw meat or working in the garden.

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Posted: 03/14/2007 at 09:49 AM
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Posted: 03/14/2007 at 09:49 AM
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