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Toxoplasma Infection and Animals

What is toxoplasmosis ?

Toxoplasmosis (TOX-so-plaz-MO-sis) is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Most people who get toxoplasmosis do not get sick, but some people will get swollen glands, muscle aches and feel as though they have the "flu". Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant should be especially careful about toxoplasmosis because this disease can infect the fetus and cause a malformation or abortion.

Can cats transmit toxoplasmosis to me?

Yes, but not by direct contact with a cat. Toxoplasmosis is passed to people from contaminated cat feces (stool). People can get toxoplasmosis by cleaning kitty litter or touching dirt where cats might have been, including garden soil. Toxoplasmosis can also be passed to people when they eat meat that is not cooked completely, especially pork, lamb, or deer meat.

Some people are more likely than others to get sick with toxoplasmosis. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. People who are more likely to get sick with toxoplasmosis include infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS and people getting treatment for cancer. Special advice is available for people who are at greater risk than others of getting this kind of disease from animals.

How can I reduce my risk of getting toxoplasmosis?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with cat feces (stool) and after gardening.
  • If you are pregnant or immunocompromised, try to have another person non-pregnant or immunocompromised clean out the litter box every day.
  • Clean out kitty litter boxes daily (not when pregnant).
  • If you are pregnant or immunocompromised, keep your cats indoors.
  • Avoid eating undercooked meat.
  • Do not feed undercooked meat to your cat.

How can I find out more about toxoplasmosis?

Learn more about toxoplasmosis at CDC's parasitic diseases information site.

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