F E AT U R E To prevent risk of toxoplasmosis from the environment: - Avoid drinking untreated drinking water. - Wear gloves when gardening and during any contact with soil or sand because it might be contaminated with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. Wash hands with soap and warm water after gardening or contact with soil or sand. - Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection. - Keep outdoor sandboxes covered. - Feed cats only canned or dried commercial food or well-cooked table food, not raw or undercooked meats. - Change the litter box daily if you own a cat. The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat’s feces. If you are pregnant or immunocompromised, avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards. - Keep cats indoors. - While pregnant try to avoid adopting or handling stray cats, especially kittens and do not get a new cat. How is it treated in pregnant women? If infected, a pregnant woman can be treated with antibiotics, but it is obviously best to avoid infection. What is your advice to our readers regarding Toxoplasmosis? Do not worry too much! If you have a cat get someone else to change the litter box. If you visit a house with a cat do not be afraid – you can pet the cat! Always practice good hand washing before you eat and cook your meat well. Dr Agata, a veterinary surgeon from Poland, spent almost seven years in the UK, working for a very busy animal hospital. She gained extensive experience in all aspects of veterinary medicine and surgery. Two years ago she moved to Dubai. She works at Pet Connection Veterinary Hospital and performs soft tissue surgery and orthopaedics, as well as radiographic and ultrasound examinations. Dr Agata owns a fluffy black cat, Jessy, who is known for being constantly hungry and vocal. Away from work, Dr Agata enjoys meeting new 22 people, jogging and playing beach volleyball. What are the risks of Toxoplasmosis for pregnant women? Anyone who eats anything infected with the parasite is at a risk of catching the infection. Some women may be at increased risk due to the job they do, for instance catering, working on land or farming. A healthy person’s immune system usually prevents the parasite from causing illness. However, pregnant women and individuals who have compromised immune system, somebody with HIV/AIDS or on immunosuppressant drugs, should be cautious, for them, Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems. There is also a risk of the infection being passed from mother to unborn baby; therefore it is important to avoid a contact with Toxoplasma during pregnancy. How severe are the effects of the parasitic disease for mother and baby? Toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Moreover, infection can also be passed to the unborn child, causing damage to the baby’s brain and other organs. The risk of problems varies, depending on when woman becomes infected during her pregnancy. If a woman gets toxoplasmosis for the first time around the time of conception, the risk of miscarriage is high; if she becomes infected during the third trimester of pregnancy, the infection more commonly passes to the child and there is about a 65% chance that her baby will also be infected. The majority of infected infants will show no symptoms of toxoplasmosis at birth, but are likely to develop signs of infection later in life resulting in loss of vision, mental retardation, and loss of hearing. What precautions and measures should pregnant women take? There are several measures a woman can take to help reduce a risk of developing a toxoplasmosis infection: - Wearing gloves when gardening, particularly when handling soil and washing hands thoroughly afterwards. - Avoiding eating raw or undercooked meat, including any ready-prepared chilled meals such as Parma ham. - Avoiding drinking unpasteurized g