What is Toxoplasma?
Toxoplasma is a microscopic organism that is found in many domestic animals including cats, dogs, horses, pigs and sheep. Humans can also become infected. There are a number of possible routes of infections. These include:
1.Eating raw or under cooked meat
2.Contact with cat faeces
3.Drinking water or eating raw vegetables contaminated by cat faeces.
Once infected, humans produce antibodies which can be detected by a blood test. While any person can be infected with Toxoplasma, the people at greatest risk of serious problems are pregnant women with a cat in their household and immunocompromised people eg. those with leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease, AIDS sufferers transplant patients or cancer patients recieving chemotherapy.
Many people often panic and have their cat rehomed or euthanised when they discover they are pregnant. Pregnant women should have a blood test first to determine whether they have any Toxoplasma antibodies. It is only women that have no antibodies and thus have not been previously exposed that are at risk. However, if appropriate precautions are taken then there is often little risk if any to the pregnant woman and her foetus.
Precautions to follow are:
1. Do not handle or eat raw meat and ensure all meat is cooked thoroughly. If meat must be handled wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly after.
2. Wash utensils used for meat preparation in hot soapy water.
3. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
4. Do not feed cats raw or undercooked meat.
5. Prevent cats from hunting or scavenging.
6. Avoid handling cat litter. If this is not possible wear gloves when doing so and dispose of cat litter daily. Disinfect trays with boiling water and wash hands after handling litter trays.
7. Wear gloves when gardening.
8. Always wash hands thoroughly before eating.
9. Do not assist ewes lambing without gloves!