Toxoplasmosis affects a large number of animal species. This disease especially affects sheep and goats, sometimes pigs and, more infrequently, cattle and horses. Cats are also often infected.
Signs of the disease
Infected animals generally do not show any symptoms.
In sheep, goats and pigs, toxoplasmosis can cause reproductive issues, such as abortions or stillbirths. The disease can also cause encephalitis and eye damage.
Cats rarely show signs of the disease. The most frequent sign is pneumonia.
Protection and prevention
Several measures can help prevent this disease in animals and transmission to humans.
Infection in cats
Cats are the main contaminators of the environment with this parasite. Cat owners should prevent their pets from getting infected.
Only give commercial feed to your cat, or food that has been cooked properly. Avoid giving your cat raw meat.
Prevent your cat from hunting. For example, you can attach a bell to your cat’s collar to lower their chances of catching prey.
Do not adopt a kitten or take care of someone else’s cat if you are not familiar with its medical history.
Pregnant women and persons with a weak immune system must preferably keep their cats indoors.
Transmission via a pet’s litter box
Frequently cleaning the litter box is key to prevent parasite eggs from developing. You must pick up droppings and urine every day and throw them out with domestic waste.
Use a clumping litter. Its absorbent properties create the right conditions to prevent parasite development.
Wash your hands after handling the litter.
Regularly disinfect the litter box. Please keep in mind that domestic disinfectants are not very effective against this parasite. Use boiling water and let it soak for at least 10 minutes. Wear gloves to empty the box and fill it with water, and wash the gloves every time you wear them before taking them off.
If you are pregnant, ask someone else to clean the litter box. If this is not possible, follow the recommendations above rigorously.
Contamination of the surrounding area
Cover sand boxes when they are not being used in order to prevent cats from entering them. If the sand box is contaminated, take all the sand out and replace it.
Use a shovel to collect all fecal matter on the ground. Also collect the soil surrounding the droppings, as it may have been contaminated. It is not recommended to bury the droppings or to put them in the compost bin.
Keep animal feed in silos or other containers, away from cats and rodents.
To prevent cats or vermin from accessing the containers, quickly and properly dispose of placentas and aborted fetuses.
Conduct vermin control.
It is preferable to limit the number of free-roaming cats on a farm, for example, by neutering or spaying them.
Infected animals can transmit the disease to humans even when they do not show any symptoms.
Someone can get infected by touching cat droppings or by eating contaminated food, usually undercooked game or lamb meat. Another source of infection can be poorly washed fruits or vegetables from a garden visited by cats. Raw milk can also lead to infection.
Infected humans generally do not show any symptoms. Possible symptoms include fatigue, a fever, headaches, muscle pain, inflammation of the lymph nodes and eye damage.
In young children, elderly people and people with a weak immune system, the disease can bring complications and lead to encephalitis. It can also lead to miscarriage or cause health issues in unborn children.