Friday, 14th August 2020

This Month's Magazine
Expecting mothers must avoid changing cat litter

Expecting mothers must avoid changing cat litter

Toxoplasmosis, a virus present in cat faeces can be very harmful, therefore special care must be taken especially here with so many strays that touch our hearts.

Unfortunately contraction is not limited to cat’s litter, because a cat walks on its litter, the virus can be tracked anywhere a cat walks, including its paws and due to this, all contact with the cat must be limited and the house must be kept extra clean.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease where the parasite infects most warm-blooded animals, including humans, but the primary host is the felid (cat) family. Animals are infected by eating infected meat, by ingestion of faeces of a cat that has itself recently been infected, or by transmission from mother to foetus. Cats have been shown as a major cause of this infection.

Transmission usually occurs through:

  • Ingestion of raw or partly cooked meat, especially pork, lamb, or venison containing Toxoplasmosis cysts, such infections are prevalent in countries where undercooked meat is traditionally eaten, such as France. Ingestion may also occur during hand-to-mouth contact after handling undercooked meat, or using knives and utensils contaminated by raw meat.
  • Ingestion of contaminated cat faeces. This can occur through hand-to-mouth contact following gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, contact with children's sandpits, or touching anything that has come into contact with cat faeces. 
  • Drinking water contaminated with Toxoplasmosis. 
  • Transplacental infection in uterus. 
  • Receiving an infected organ transplant or blood transfusion, although this is extremely rare.

Up to 90% of children born with congenital toxoplasmosis have no symptoms early in infancy, but a large percentage will show signs of infection months to years later. Others show clear signs of infection either at birth or within the first month of life. Some are born prematurely or are unusually small at birth. Other signs and symptoms, if there are any at all, may include:

  • fever 
  • swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • jaundice 
  • an unusually large or small head 
  • rash 
  • bruises or bleeding under the skin 
  • anaemia 
  • enlarged liver or spleen

Some babies with congenital toxoplasmosis have brain and nervous system abnormalities that cause:

  • seizures 
  • limp muscle tone 
  • feeding difficulties 
  • hearing loss 
  • mental retardation

They're also at high risk for eye damage involving the retina, resulting in severe vision problems.
If a child is born with congenital toxoplasmosis and remains untreated during infancy, there's almost always some sign of the infection (often eye damage) by early childhood to adolescence.


Most patients who become infected and develop toxoplasmosis do not know it. Most infants who are infected while in the womb have no symptoms at birth but may develop symptoms later in life.
Treatment is often only recommended for people with serious health problems, because the disease is most serious when one's immune system is weak.

Medications that are prescribed for acute toxoplasmosis are in the form of various kinds of antibiotics, however, in latent infections successful treatment is not guaranteed, and some subspecies exhibit resistance.

Notable people with toxoplasmosis

  • Martina Navratilova (tennis player) retired from a competition in 1982 with symptoms of a mystery 'virus' that were later found to be due to toxoplasmosis
  • Arthur Ashe developed neurological problems from toxoplasmosis (and was later found to be HIV-positive)
  • Leslie Ash contracted toxoplasmosis in the second month of pregnancy
  • François, comte de Clermont, Dauphin of France and Orléans, pretender to the French throne. Both he and his younger sister, Princess Blanche, are mentally disabled due to congenital toxoplasmosis.
  • Louis Wain was a prominent cat artist who later developed schizophrenia, which some believe was due to toxoplasmosis resulting from his prolonged exposure to cats.

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