You may have heard of the risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease, especially if you are pregnant. Inhaling dust from contaminated litter is one way to get toxoplasmosis; however, direct contact can also make you sick. Certain people have a higher risk than others, but overall, complications are rare.
Toxoplasmosis gondii is the parasite that leads to toxoplasmosis. If your purring pal catches the parasite, she quickly develops immunity, resulting in a lesser chance of her becoming sick. Cats tend to act as carriers of the parasites, which escapes through her feces in the form of oocysts, which are microorganisms that quickly reproduce. Even if your feline friend is a carrier, the oocysts are not an immediate risk. They have an incubation period of one to five days, so as long as you clean the litter box daily basis, you won't become exposed to the active parasite, explains the the Human Society of the United States. Your furry friend cat get the parasite from eating raw meat or feasting on rodents that are infected.
Scooping the litter box or changing the litter altogether may stir up a slight cloud of dust, depending on your litter. Dust may or may not be visible, but either way, if you inhale contaminated kitty litter dust, the parasites can get into your system. Toxoplasmosis gondii can also get into your body if you unintentionally get the contaminated fecal matter into your digestive system. While this may sound gross and disturbing, if you scoop out the contaminated litter box and then make yourself a sandwich without washing your hands, you may wind up accidentally swallowing contaminated droppings. Because of this, it is imperative to always wash your hands after cleaning out the litter box.
Symptoms and Treatment
If you become infected from inhaling or ingesting the parasite, symptoms typically occur five to 20 days after exposure. However, only 10 to 20 percent of healthy people who become infected actually show symptoms, according to the Queensland Government website. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, fatigue, sore body, headache and painful, enlarged lymph nodes. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and let him know if you suspect you may have been infected with Toxoplasmosis gondii parasites. He may want to send a blood sample to the lab to determine if you are sick from the microorganism. Depending on the results, you may have to take a series of antibiotics.
People Most at Risk
If you are generally healthy, you probably won't become sick from toxoplasmosis. People with severely compromised immune systems, such as those with AIDS, have a very high risk of getting sick from toxoplasmosis if they are exposed to contaminated litter. Pregnant women also need to be wary of the condition, since toxoplasmosis can lead to fetal neurological damage, miscarriage or other complications. Roughly 400 to 4,000 babies are born with toxoplasmosis in the United States each year, with symptoms varying in severity. If you have toxoplasmosis during the first trimester of your pregnancy, there is a 15 percent chance your growing fetus will also get it. This risk goes up to 60 percent during your third trimester, reports the Baby Center. As a precaution, if you have a weak immune system or are pregnant, let your significant other change the litter.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.