ZocdocAnswersWhat is toxoplasmosis?

Question

What is toxoplasmosis?

My cousin is pregnant and said that she shouldn?t be around cats because she might catch toxoplasmosis. She said it is bad for pregnant women. What is toxoplasmosis and should she really stay away from cats? I have a cat but want to see her still!

Answer

Toxoplasmosis is a disease called by a tiny microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii commonly lives in cats, and it can be picked up by humans if they come into contact with cat feces. For most healthy people, accidentally being infected with Toxoplasma gondii is not such a big deal and the infection is easily brought under control. However, for people who have weak immune systems (such as people undergoing cancer treatment or people who have AIDS), toxoplasmosis can be a very severe, life threatening problem. For pregnant women, the major problem is that the parasite can cross the placenta and invade the growing fetus, causing major deformities and possibly even death of the fetus. Therefore, for pregnant women, it is not so much the cat itself that is the danger as it is the cat's feces. What pregnant women need to avoid, in particular, is coming in contact with the feces - i.e., they should never change the cat litter box! In terms of just hanging around your cat, there should be no problems! As always, if your friend has any other general questions about this pregnancy, she should ask her OB GYN doctor, who will be happy to provide advice!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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