Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection caused by a parasite (toxoplasma). It’s caught from the poo of infected cats or from infected meat. A parasite is a living thing (organism) that lives in, or on, another organism. It's usually harmless but can cause serious problems in some people (see below).

Check if you have toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis doesn't usually cause any symptoms. Most people don't realise they have had it.

Some people get flu-like symptoms, such as:

If you do have symptoms, they normally get better on their own within about six weeks.

Once you have had toxoplasmosis you are immune to it for the rest of your life.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if:

  • you are pregnant or you have a weak immune system and you think you may have toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is usually harmless, but in rare cases it can lead to serious problems.

You are more at risk if:

  • you get infected in pregnancy – toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage (If it spreads to your baby it can cause serious complications, especially if you catch it early in pregnancy)
  • your immune system is weakened – for example, if you have HIV or you are having chemotherapy (the infection may affect your eyes or brain)

The GP may do blood tests to see if you have been infected. They can also prescribe medicines to treat the infection if necessary.

If you are pregnant and you test positive for toxoplasmosis, your GP can refer you for more tests to see if your baby has been infected. This is very rare.

How to prevent toxoplasmosis

The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis is found in the poo of infected cats and in infected meat. You can also catch it from soil that has been contaminated by cat poo.

If you are pregnant or have a weak immune system:

Do

  • wear gloves while gardening
  • wash your hands before preparing food and eating
  • wash hands, knives and chopping boards thoroughly after preparing raw meat
  • wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly to get rid of any traces of soil
  • wear gloves while emptying cat litter trays and empty them every day

Don't

  • eat raw or undercooked meat, or cured meats like salami or Parma ham
  • have unpasteurised goat's milk or any products made from it
  • touch or handle pregnant sheep or lambs

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

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