In many cases, toxoplasmosis is an illness with relatively harmless progression and often goes completely unnoticed. It does however become very dangerous if somebody’s first infection coincides with pregnancy. The unborn child then runs the risk of serious defects and or even death.
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis
In postnatal cases, i.e. an infection occurring after birth, 80% to 90% of the cases don’t show any signs of the illness. If the illness does manifest itself, it will generally appear with flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, joint aches, swelling of the thyroid). For patients with already low immune systems, these symptoms can be amplified and include serious effects on the central nervous system.
A toxoplasmosis acquired before birth (prenatal) has a 50% chance of being transmitted from the mother to the child. This can lead to a variety of symptoms. Depending on the progress of the pregnancy and the intensity of the infection, there can be birth defects and in rarer cases stillbirths or symptoms such as hydrocephalus, intracerebral calcification and infections of the retina. The impact on the child's health depends on the exact timing of the infection. At the beginning of the pregnancy it leads to the most serious damages, if it happens later the effects might be lesser.
It is also possible that an infected child is born seemingly healthy and only experiences development problems months or even years later.
If your hands have been in contact with contaminated soil (for example from work in the garden or from a sand pit) or with raw meat, make sure to wash them very thoroughly. Even more so than in normal times should you remember to wash your hands every time before eating. In the animal world, cats are particularly prone to toxoplasmosis, so you should be rather careful when having contact with them. Pay particular attention to their hygiene and don’t feed them any raw meat. The risk is even higher if you have any exposure to stray cats.
Another area of caution is when shopping for foods. Pregnant ladies should avoid eating raw or only minimally cooked meat (e.g. ham, salami, roast beef etc.). Unpasteurised cheese is also off the menu during this time.
The pathogen toxoplasma gondii is killed through cooking, smoking, curing or freezing (at -21°). Additionally you should meticulously wash vegetables, fruit and salads before eating them.