F E AT U R E There are a number of measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing toxoplasmosis including: • Wearing gloves while gardening, particularly when handling soil. • Not eating raw or undercooked meat. • Washing utensils and other kitchenware thoroughly after preparing raw meat. • Washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly before cooking and eating them. • Wearing gloves while cleaning or avoiding handling cat litter. To further understand the risks of Toxoplasmosis, especially for pregnant women who are exposed to cat litter, we spoke to Veterinary Dr Agata of Pet Connection Veterinary Hospital in Dubai, Vet Dr Dominik Surek of Vet Care Dubai and Dr. Jennifer Kasirsky, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, Dubai. Dr. Jennifer Kasirsky, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, has an MD and American Board Certification. Before joining Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, Dr Kasirsky was medical director and clinical practitioner at the Prince William Hospital in Virginia, United States and regional director at Delphi Healthcare Partners. She also worked in a private gynaecological practice in Pennsylvania and as an assistant professor in the gynaecological department at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Dr. Kasirsky earned a BA from Haverford College in Pennsylvania; completed a post-baccalaureate programme from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania; earned an MD from Hahnemann University Medical School in Philadelphia; completed a fellowship with the Ministry of Health in Santiago, Chile; was named legislative fellow for Women’s Healthcare ACOG in Washington, DC; and completed a residence, chief resident, in obstetrics and gynaecology from Cooper Hospital/University Medical Centre in Camden, New Jersey. Before beginning her medical training, Dr. Kasirsky volunteered for the United States Peace Corps, organising a vaccination campaign for Save the Children in the Dominican Republic. What are the risks of Toxoplasmosis for pregnant women? Generally if a woman has been infected before becoming pregnant, the unborn child will be protected because the mother has developed immunity. If a woman is pregnant and becomes newly infected with Toxoplasma during or just before pregnancy, she can pass the infection to her unborn baby, congenital transmission. How severe are the effects of the parasitic disease for mother and baby? The damage to the unborn child is often more severe the earlier in pregnancy the transmission occurs. Potential results can be: - Miscarriage - Stillborn child - Child born with signs of toxoplasmosis, e.g., abnormal enlargement or smallness of the head. Infants infected before birth often show no symptoms at birth but may develop them later in life with potential vision loss, mental disability, and seizures. What precautions and measures should pregnant women take? To prevent risk of toxoplasmosis and other infections from food: Cook food to safe temperatures. A food thermometer should be used to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat. Do not sample meat until it is cooked. USDA recommends the following for meat preparation: For Whole Cuts of Meat, excluding poultry - Cook to at least 145° F (63° C) as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allow the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming. For Ground Meat, excluding poultry - Cook to at least 160° F (71° C); ground meats do not require a rest time. For All Poultry, whole cuts and ground - Cook to at least 165° F (74° C), and for whole poultry allow the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming. According to USDA, “A ‘rest time’ is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.” 21