This article comes by request as there seems to be some confusion amongst the Clarence Valley community about this condition that needs to be addressed.
Here are some of the facts on toxoplasmosis to dispel the myths that are floating around out there!
Toxoplasmosis is a common intracellular parasite (zoonotic coccidian protozoan) that can effect several different organ systems and cause a range if symptoms (depending on what organ system is effected).
Cats are the primary host. ALL other warm blooded animals are intermediate hosts. The parasite is acquired by ingestion and infection is rarely fatal in ANY animal. The disease is very easy to treat with a widely available and inexpensive prescription drug called Clindamycin. (Only available after diagnosis by your vet).
To put it into perspective the disease is worldwide and according to past studies up to 50% of the human population will be sero-positive for toxoplasmosis regardless of whether or not they have a cat or work with animals. (Sero-positive means they have had or come into contact with the condition already and have mounted an immune response).
Healthy cats pose little or no risk of spreading infection even if they are sero – positive. People get Toxoplasmosis from DIRECT CONTACT with cat faeces. Toxoplasmosis is not an airborne disease and definitely does not produce spores into the air. People get infected by ingesting (EATING) the oocytes (eggs) in the faeces, e.g. by getting infected cat faeces on their hands then eating something or putting the contaminated hand into their mouth. Simply washing hands thoroughly removes the contamination.
After an infected cat passes faeces contaminated with oocytes of toxoplasmosis it takes 24 HOURS for the oocytes to become infective – if you empty the litter tray at least once per day there is no risk of infection.
So how do you prevent infection?
- Wash your hands after emptying a litter tray or wear gloves when gardening if your cat defaecates outside. Wearing gloves to empty litter trays is also fine.
- Wash garden grown vegetables prior to eating if a cat may have used the vegi patch as a toilet.
- Do not feed your cat raw meat as this is how they contract the disease.
The major risk to people is the immuno-compromised – HIV/AIDS patients or people on chemotherapy or immuno suppressive drugs. Also pregnant women need to avoid contracting toxoplasmosis as it can cause miscarriage. Pregnant women should avoid all contact with cat faeces.
Please remember the disease is DEFINITELY not spread through the air!