John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Toxoplasmosis facts
- What is toxoplasmosis?
- What is the cause of toxoplasmosis?
- What factors increase the risk of acquiring toxo?
- What are the usual symptoms of toxoplasmosis?
- Why do some people develop severe problems from toxo?
- Can toxoplasmosis develop into a more serious illness in babies?
- What is meant by a baby developing "a more severe case of toxo"?
- How is toxo diagnosed in the lab?
- How can toxoplasmosis be prevented?
- Am I able to keep my cat?
- Once infected with toxo, is my cat always able to spread the infection to me?
- What is the treatment for toxoplasmosis?
- What is the prognosis for toxoplasmosis?
What are the usual symptoms of toxoplasmosis?
Although people infected with toxoplasmosis are often unaware of having this disease, typical symptoms of toxo are flulike symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches and pains that last from a few days to several weeks. If your immune system is normal, you cannot get the infection again.
Why do some people develop severe problems from toxo?
Few people with toxo develop symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, anyone with a compromised immune system is at risk for serious problems from toxo. These individuals include those undergoing chemotherapy, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune disorders, and recent organ-transplant recipients.
In these people, an infection that occurred anytime during life can reactivate and cause the severe symptoms of toxoplasmosis such as damage to the eye, brain, or other organs.
Ocular toxoplasmosis, which damages the eyes, can lead to reduced vision, blurred vision, pain (often with bright light), redness of the eye, and sometimes tearing, according to the CDC.
Can toxoplasmosis develop into a more serious illness in babies?
Yes, the immune system in infants is not fully mature until after birth. Congenital toxoplasmosis occurs when a fetus is infected.
The babies of women who were exposed to toxo within a few months of becoming pregnant or during pregnancy are at an increased risk for developing a severe case of toxo. Pregnant women who newly contract the toxoplasmosis parasite have a 20% chance of transmitting it to their unborn child, according to the Organization of Teratology Specialists. When the mother is infected in the first trimester, there is a 10%-15% chance of passing the parasite on to her child. In the U.S., it is estimated that up to 4,000 babies are born with toxoplasmosis annually. Women who were first exposed to toxo more than six months before becoming pregnant are not likely to pass the infection to their children.
Most newborns have no symptoms, but a small percentage may be born with congenital eye or brain damage. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of the disease often appear a few months after birth.
Some signs of toxoplasmosis may be present at birth, such as jaundice, skin rash, and enlarged lymph nodes.
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