Toxoplasmosis is transmitted to humans through accidental ingestion of cat faeces containing the microscopic parasite, or occasionally by the ingestion of infected, poorly-cooked meat.
The parasites form cysts in the tissue, most commonly in the skeletal muscle, the brain and the heart.
Infected people may exhibit mild symptoms and signs or none at all but if the immune system is compromised the effects will generally be more severe. In such people toxoplasmosis may cause hepatitis, pneumonia, blindness and severe neurological problems.
Of particular concern is the ability for this disease to be transmitted across the placenta to unborn children. This can result in still-birth or severe mental and physical handicaps in the child.
Resistant stages of the parasite (called sporocysts) that are passed out with the faeces of an infected cat can remain viable in the soil for up to one year.
If you are pregnant or immuno-compromised, it may be prudent to minimise contact with cats and to be particularly thorough with personal hygiene.
For more information see the Queensland Health Toxoplasmosis fact sheet.
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