Cats are cute. Sometimes, they’re super cute.
But, did you know they’re also the only animal in which the parasitic disease “Toxoplasmosis” can re-produce and grow? And here’s another thing – your cat probably already has it.
Wait, what is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by toxoplasma gondii, which can infect nearly all warm-blooded animals. The parasite sets up home in the cat’s bowel (lovely) and it’s eggs are thrust out into the world when the cat goes to the toilet. I appreciate cat’s don’t actually have toilets, but you get the idea. After a day or so, the eggs mature and are contagious for several months. Then, a person may empty their cat’s litterbox, or pick something up from the ground, and become infected the next time they pick something up to eat, or through hand-to-mouth contact.
How many people are already infected?
It’s estimated that today in 2013 up to a third of the world’s total human population carries the toxoplasma infection, and in Britain around 350,000 more people are infected each year.
What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?
One of the most slippery things about toxoplasmosis, is that it has virtually no immediately noticeable symptoms – in fact, this is true for 80-90% of cases. The other 10-20% of people will experience a slight temperature, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, or a sore throat.
If it has no noticeable symptoms for most people, why should I be concerned?
Several reasons. It can actually be pretty nasty.
- There have been studies that show toxoplasmosis can actually affect behaviour & contribute to (and cause) psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. Studies also show that the parasite can potentially be responsible for, or contribute to, certain risk-taking behaviours in humans, such as driving faster in your car, or being subtly drawn to more dangerous activities or sports.
- Complications may occur, such as inflamation of the brain, heart, and retina.
- If a pregnant woman is already infected, or becomes infected by toxoplasmosis, the infection can be passed to the foetus. Studies suggest the incidence of this happening is around 20 percent.
Can toxoplasmosis be treated?
Yes – your GP can refer you to be tested & if necessary treated with medicines.