Early symptoms of toxoplasmosis
The early symptoms of toxoplasmosis – an infection caused by a cat-carried parasite – resemble those of the flu. However, the symptoms may also vary depending on age and the state of the immune system. For example, babies may become infected before even being born through mother-to-transmission, and while they usually have no symptoms at birth, they may develop them later on. On the other hand, most people who contract toxoplasmosis are asymptomatic, the main exception being those who have HIV/AIDS, are undergoing chemotherapy, or have had an organ transplant recently.
Healthy people (rare)
· Body aches.
· Enlarged lymph nodes.
People with weak immune systems
· Loss of coordination.
· Lung problems resembling tuberculosis or pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia.
· Blurry vision.
· Swollen liver and spleen.
· Serious eye infections.
The most common way to become infected with toxoplasmosis is by coming in contact with parasite-containing cat feces. This may occur by cleaning a cat’s litter box, touching or swallowing anything that has had contact with the feces, or swallowing contaminated soil – for example, touching one’s mouth after gardening or cleaning the litter box, or not washing one’s hands after said activities and before handling food.
Other avenues of toxoplasmosis infection include:
· Eating undercooked or contaminated meat, in particular pork, lamb, and venison.
· Drinking contaminated water.
· Using contaminated utensils.
· Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables.
· And rarely, receiving an infected organ transplant or blood transfusion.
In addition to the aforementioned early symptoms of toxoplasmosis, a recent study suggests that individuals infected with the parasite that causes this infection are about two times as likely to experience schizophrenia. “Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness,” the researchers said in a news release.
Further complications are:
· Ocular toxoplasmosis; eye infections in otherwise healthy people which may cause blindness if not treated.
· Potentially lethal encephalitis in people with weakened immune systems.
· Hearing loss, mental disability, and blindness in children.
Fortunately, toxoplasma infection can be prevented by following these measures:
· Wear gloves when gardening or handling soil.
· Refrain from eating raw or undercooked meat.
· Freeze meat at subzero levels for a few days prior to cooking.
· Cook food at safe temperatures.
- 145 F (63 C) for whole meat cuts except poultry.
- 160 F (71 C) for ground meat except poultry.
- 165 F (74 C) for all poultry.
· Carefully wash cooking utensils.
· Peel fruits and vegetables.
· Wash fruits and vegetables.
· Avoid unpasteurized milk.
Even better, people who have cats – even those at increased risk of toxoplasmosis – need not get rid of them. If that’s your case, make sure to follow these tips:
· Change the cat’s litter box every day (if you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system, have someone else clean the litter box).
· Keep the cat indoors.
· Feed the cat canned or dried commercial food exclusively.
· Avoid adopting stray cats.
The parasite only becomes infectious after 1-5 days after the cat has excreted it in its feces, and the cat itself can only spread the infection in its feces during a few weeks after becoming infected. Keep in mind that cats seldom show any symptoms.