Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite. It is a zoonosis, which means a disease that is typically transmitted from animals to human beings. Cats are the final host of the disease, but this is not the only source of transmission and, furthermore, not all cats will be candidates for carrying the parasite.
Sadly, animal protection agencies have found that pregnancy in a woman is often a reason for abandoning the family cat, due to fear of possible contagion. This is only down to lack of knowledge about the disease and about how it is transmitted, given that these abandonments are not justified by a real risk.
The problem is that this disease represents a serious threat because, when a pregnant woman suffers from it, the parasite can pass through the placental barrier and affect the foetus, causing serious problems in the brain. However, people should bear in mind that it is not very likely that a domestic cat will contract this disease, because it has practically no access to the outdoors and, therefore, to the source of contagion. Moreover, with some simple measures it is possible to totally eliminate the risk.
It is not very likely that domestic cats would contract this disease, because they have barely any access to the outdoors and, furthermore, they eat prepared foods.
Routes of infection
The main sources of transmission of this parasite are:
Water that has not been treated to make it fit for consumption.
Vegetables that have been watered with this water and have not been washed or cooked before consumption.
Ingesting raw meat or poorly cured cold meats.
A very high percentage of women have Toxoplasma gondii antibodies because they have already had the infection before pregnancy without realising, as in many cases its symptoms are those of a simple cold. In these cases, they have no risk of contracting the disease again or it affecting them during their pregnancy.
TOXOPLASMA AND CATS
Cats are the only species that can transmit the parasite by contagion, despite the fact that many animals - including human beings - can be carriers. But for this to happen, certain fairly improbable circumstances need to arise in a domestic cat that only eats prepared food and has controlled access to the outdoors.
For a cat to be a carrier of Toxoplasma, it would have to become infected by eating a mouse, a bird or other wild animal, or raw meat that has previously been infected. If the cat became infected, it would only be able to release the parasite through its excrement once in its life and over a few short weeks. Even if it became infected again, it would not release the parasite any more times.
The only way a human being can become infected with their cat’s parasite is if they touch the excrement with their hands and then have some oral contact. This can be avoided by cleaning the litter tray with a scoop and wearing gloves. Therefore, toxoplasmosis contagion can be avoided by following very simple guidelines:
Never give the cat raw meat. If it goes out into the garden, you can put a bell on it so that it cannot hunt for mice or birds.
Always wear gloves when working in the garden or vegetable patch.
Cook meat well (toxoplasma is killed at 72ºC) and avoid cold meats during pregnancy
Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
For greater protection, ensure that it is not the pregnant woman who cleans the cat’s sand tray.