A Warning for Pregnant Women About Cats
I have a cousin who is much older than I am, but she still sleeps in a crib. She has to. She was born with severe brain damage. The saddest part is that when she was first developing in the womb she was completely healthy. And then her mom cleaned the litter box. Here is a warning for pregnant women about cats.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite. For most people this parasite doesn’t cause any major health problems, so we never really hear much about it, but for a pregnant woman who gets infected with it, it can cause great harm. Not to mom, but to baby. Toxoplasmosis in an unborn baby can cause severe brain damage and vision loss. My cousin has both.
You can get the infection by:
- Eating infected meat that hasn’t been fully cooked or frozen.
- Digging or gardening in sand or soil where an infected cat has left feces.
- Changing an infected cat’s litter box. Cats infected with the parasite pass it on to others through their feces.
- Eating anything that has touched infected cat feces, including fruits and vegetables that haven’t been washed.
- You can also get the infection by eating food that has touched tables and counters your cat has simply walked on.
Scary right? Some of these things we may do every day, and nobody warns us.
So how do you know if you have this disease? What are the symptoms? Sometimes people who are infected do get flu-like symptoms. They may include swollen glands, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, sore throat and possibly a skin rash. But here’s the really scary part. You may not ever get symptoms. The first you may hear of it may be when there is a problem with your baby. The only way to know for sure is to get a blood test. If you do get the infection while you’re pregnant, you’ll need to have your baby tested too. Your doctor can take some fluid from the sac that surrounds your baby and check for the infection.
It is best to just avoid the whole mess to begin with.
How do you avoid this risk? If you are of child-bearing age and not on any form of birth control, I highly recommend you do not ever clean a litter box or play with a child in a sand box that may have been used as a litter box when nobody was looking. Assign the litter box task to someone who doesn’t have the risk of unknowingly passing this terrible parasite on to her baby. If you must clean the box, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands immediately afterwards. Also, wear gloves to garden. And as always, keep your countertops clean and disinfected.
It goes without saying that you should take care when preparing food, not just for toxoplasmosis but for many other food-borne illnesses that can occur as well.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Be careful out there Mommas.