Toxoplasmosis: The deadly disease caused by parasites
Toxoplasmosis is an infection transmitted by a parasite, known as Toxoplasma gondii, that usually persists in the digestive system of cats. In United States, over 60 million people have been infected by this deadly parasite. However, in most cases, toxoplasmosis is not a major cause of concern if the affected individual is healthy. This is because treatment is not required as the person does not fall sick.
Pregnant woman infected with Toxoplasma gondii, for the first time, have a high probability of passing the infection to her baby. As a result, it is not uncommon for serious health complications to later develop in the baby. This could include brain damage or learning problems. In extreme cases, miscarriage has occurred as a result of becoming infected.
Transmission of Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis infection, is usually transmitted through cat feces. People who keep household pets often don’t wear rubber gloves, instead opt for using bare hands to clean the litter tray. This is a common entry point for Toxoplasma gondii. This microscopic organism may also be found in fresh vegetables and fruits. Contaminated soil that is used in gardening is also a source of toxoplasmosis. Drinking unpasteurized milk, especially the unpasteurized goat’s milk, can also cause this infection as it contains this parasite.
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis
In most cases, people who are affected are unaware that they have this disease. However, flu-like symptoms appear in individuals with weak immune system. People with HIV/AIDS often have immune disorders. These people can contract toxoplasmosis anytime in their lifetime. Infected adults may show minimal symptoms that are listed below:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Fever and/or Headache
- Muscle aches that can last for several weeks
- Poor coordination, blurred vision and seizures particularly observed in HIV infected patients
- Severe eye infections and an enlarged liver spleen are noticed in babies
Treatment for Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis can cause serious health problem in patients bearing an impaired immune system. Without treatment this parasitic infection can be fatal in these patients and can cause subtle abnormalities. Pyrimethamine is a commonly prescribed drug to treat this condition. A mixture of pyrimethamine and clindamycin (antibiotic), is highly effective. Other antibiotics often used in combination with this medication are spiramycin and sulfadiazine. Some patients are also given folinic acid supplementation, along with pyrimethamine.
An easy way to prevent this infection is to thoroughly wash vegetables, salads and fruits before consuming them. One must also wash hands properly with soap and water, after handling undercooked or raw meat. Always wear rubber gloves when changing your cat’s litter box, especially pregnant women. Eating unpasteurized products or drinking unpasteurized milk must be strictly avoided. Ensure that the meat you eat is cooked properly. Cured meats should not be consumed, as it can also cause parasitic infections. Any kind of gardening activities must be followed by cleaning hands, using an antiseptic soap.
This parasitic infection commonly affects the sheep. Individuals living near a farm should never handle lambing ewes (female sheep) or new born lambs.
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