Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite.
It is found in many warm-blooded animals all over the world but has only been found to reproduce in the cat.
This is not good news as many of us own a pet cat or have cats living in the neighbourhood.
However there is no need to panic, as it is very easy to protect our selves from possible infection and indeed many people who do become infected show no ill signs at all.
It is estimated that over half the population are already immune.
A cat may pick up the infection via other cats faeces or in the eating of meat that contains the parasite.
It is therefore more common in cats that regularly hunt and eat birds or rodents. Kittens may also be born with the infection.
The eggs of the parasite are passed through the cat into their faeces for only a short time after the cat first becomes infected.
After which time the cat's own immune system will kill the parasite. The eggs are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen.
Basic hygiene is all that is needed to protect yourself from possible infection.
The eggs become infectious 24 hours after being passed and only once they have been swallowed.
So the removal of cat faeces from litter trays and lawns as soon as possible after passing is a good safe guard against possible infection.
The only way a human can be infected is by ingesting the parasite either in the egg or larval form. This can be done in two ways:
The eggs can remain and survive in soil for up to 18 months, so it is always wise to take precautions even if you no longer have a cat.
There is no risk from:
The symptoms displayed in our cats can be extremely varied and depends on what organs of the body are infected. Young cats may become ill will broncho-pnuemonia.
In some situations the cat's brain may become infected, when this happens the cat may become unsteady on their feet and stagger around or go around in circles. However the only way of a positive diagnosis is via a blood sample.
In the rare occasions that a human becomes infected the symptoms are similar to flu or glandular fever.
This will soon pass if you re generally fit and healthy, it only become dangerous for those who have a compromised immune system like sufferers of HIV or AIDS or young babies.
Catching the infection is something that none of us wants to do but for pregnant women it is definitely something to avoid as there is a 40% risk that the infection could affect the unborn child.
However antibiotic treatment can reduce these risks if you think that you have come into contact with the parasite.
A simple blood test will be able to confirm an infection.
The basic rules of protecting yourself from infection are:
There is no reason to overly worry about this particular infection, as basic hygiene is all that is needed to protect yourself and your cat from the parasite.