Pregnant women should be aware of a disease called toxoplasmosis. When acquired during pregnancy, it can cause birth defects, spontaneous abortion, or stillbirth.
Toxoplasmosis is relatively common and is caused by a single-celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii.
Most people who get toxoplasmosis have few symptoms or none at all. Others may have swollen glands, fatigue, malaise, muscle pain, low fever, rash, headache, or sore throat.
The common household cat is the only animal known to shed Toxoplasma parasites in its feces. If your cat is infected, you could get toxoplasmosis from the feces in the litter box or the garden.
Toxoplasmosis can be avoided. Keep your cat free of infection by feeding it only commercial cat food or well-cooked meat. Keep it indoors so that it cannot hunt and eat mice and birds.
Change the cat litter daily. If possible, someone other than the expectant mother should do this.
Another way of getting toxoplasmosis is by eating raw or undercooked meats. Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly. Wash or cook homegrown vegetables that may have come in contact with cat feces in the garden.
Wash your hands after touching raw meat, changing the cat litter, or working in gardens that cats have access to.
For more information on toxoplasmosis, write to:
NIAID Information Office
Building 31, Room 7A32
Bethesda, MD 20205