We are talking about this extremely common infection. Perhaps you did not even know about her
What is toxoplasmosis?
It is a disease caused by the unicellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Having become infected, you can carry the infection in yourself all your life and not experience any special symptoms. This happens in most infected people. But toxoplasmosis can be fatal and can cause serious birth defects in the fetus during pregnancy.
How does the disease manifest itself?
If symptoms do appear, they may be as follows:
- enlarged lymph nodes, especially cervical;
- body aches and muscle pains;
- sore throat.
The unpleasant sensations last about a month and go away on their own.
If a person had problems with immunity before infection, then the consequences of Toxoplasma are more serious:
- Headaches, convulsions, clouding of consciousness up to coma. This is the result of brain damage.
- Cough and shortness of breath due to lung infection.
- Vision problems and eye pain, especially in bright light, is another option for infection.
If a child becomes infected during pregnancy, the disease can manifest itself months or even years later. Congenital toxoplasmosis is characterized by:
- bilateral retinal damage;
- calcifications of the brain;
- lag in psychomotor development;
- accumulation of excess fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
So is it dangerous or not?
For most, no. For example, in the United States, about 40 million people can be infected with Toxoplasma. But those planning pregnancy and pregnant women, as well as people with immunodeficiencies, cancer patients and patients with organ transplants, remain at risk.
What do cats have to do with it?
The pathogen multiplies only in the intestines of cats and is excreted along with excrement. This is how water, soil, and litter become infected. Through cat feces, Toxoplasma enters the body of pigs, cows, sheep, birds and rodents.
In the ideal world of Toxoplasma, it has three "moves": from the cat to the environment, from there to the mouse and back to the cat. In order not to miscalculate, the infection tries to settle in the nerve cells of the mouse and controls its behavior. Infected rodents become insane and unnecessarily brave. The infection forces them to do everything to find the cat and go out to meet her.
A human can replace a mouse in the Toxoplasma life cycle. Perhaps that's why we love cats too. However, for infection, this path is dead end: a cat can only get sick by eating something infected.
How does a person get infected?
You can get toxoplasmosis by cleaning the litter box, petting a sick cat, or eating poorly washed vegetables and half-baked meat that contain Toxoplasma cysts. The baby becomes infected from an infected mother through the placenta.
Once it enters the human body, the infection forms so-called pseudocysts in skeletal muscles, heart and brain. That is, it forms a shell in soft tissues and hides under it. The cells of the immune system do not penetrate into this capsule and the pathogen can live in it for years. The infection is activated when the immune system becomes weak.
Have to give up the cat?
Of course not. A street cat is more likely to tolerate toxoplasmosis, so it is best to keep the animal at home.
Those at risk should follow simple rules:
- Make sure the litter box is changed daily. Toxoplasma is active for five days after excretion in feces.
- If possible, entrust the replacement of the litter for the tray, or at least do it with gloves.
- Do not have a cat during pregnancy or illness.
- Do not touch stray animals.
- Feed your pets only canned food, avoid raw or undercooked meat.
Should I be tested for toxoplasma?
Only if you are pregnant or seriously ill and you suspect you have toxoplasmosis. Infection is determined by the presence of antibodies in the blood plasma. IgM antibodies indicate recent infection. IgG - that the infection was in the past. Only a fresh infection is dangerous.
Can infection be prevented?
The best prevention is to wash your hands after interacting with your cat and before eating. It is important to thoroughly cook meat, especially pork and lamb, wash vegetables and drink only clean fresh water.
Love for cats, if caused by a microorganism, is not the worst symptom. But it is impossible to guarantee that Toxoplasma will not lead to ocular, respiratory or neuroinfection.