Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. While cats can be infected with this parasite, it is unlikely that you would be exposed to the parasite by touching an infected cat because cats usually do not carry the parasite on their fur. In addition, cats kept indoors (that do not hunt prey or are not fed raw meat) are not likely to be infected with Toxoplasma.
People can become infected with toxoplasmosis in several ways. The most common routes of infection include:
Eating food, drinking water, or accidentally swallowing soil that has been contaminated with infected cat feces.
Eating raw or undercooked meat from animals (especially pigs, lamb, or wild game) that have been infected with Toxoplasma.
Directly from a pregnant woman to her unborn child when the mother becomes infected with Toxoplasma just before or during pregnancy.
It is important to note that most people who become infected with Toxoplasma do not know it and have no symptoms. However, when illness occurs, it is usually mild and flu-like, with swollen lymph glands, muscle aches, and pain that last for several weeks or more. Severe symptoms are more likely to occur in individuals with weakened immune systems or infants infected before birth.
To protect yourself and others from toxoplasmosis, several steps can be taken:
Change cat litter boxes daily. Toxoplasma takes more than one day to become infectious. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, ask someone else to change the litter box. If this is not possible, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward.
Cook meat thoroughly and wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
Practice good hygiene, such as washing hands with soap and water after handling raw meat or gardening.