Cat scratch disease, also known as Toxoplasmosis, is a very common
condition caused by a parasite that resides in cats, it can also be
acquired it through raw meat or undercooked meat. In the US the the
Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 60 million people carry
this parasite! And it is estimated that some European countries 90% of
their population are carriers. So it is not an uncommon disease by any
means.You may ask if this disease is so common why don’t more people know
about Toxoplasmosis. The reason is that very few people have symptoms. 80
to 90% of people who are seropositive (showing positive results) for
Toxoplasma gondii are completely unaware and display no symptoms. They
carry the parasite around, but it rarely causes disease because our
body’s immune system keeps the parasite at bay.
SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH YOU CAN CONTRACT TOXOPLASMOSIS:
* Touching or coming into contact with infected cat feces (cats
acquire the infection from eating infected birds, rodents or other small
* You may acquire the Toxoplasma parasite after an organ transplant
or blood transfusion, though this is extremely rare.
* If you prepare raw meat food for your pet and touch your mouth
after you put yourself at risk.
* Eating raw or partially raw meat eg: Sushi, (raw fish is not as
risky) as raw pork, lamb , beef or venison.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE DEVELOP THE DISEASE AND NOT OTHERS?
Most people who contract Toxoplasmosis are unaware that they have the
disease. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as mild fever, body
aches, lethargy, headache, and swollen lymph nodes that appear on both
sides of your body (symmetrical). This can last from several days to
weeks. If your immune system is healthy and intact there should be no
problem and you will recover quickly. Once you get Toxoplasmosis you are
immune to it for life if your immune system continues to be healthy.
People with compromised immune system however are at severe risk. Your
immune system can be compromised if you have AIDS, or are on chemotherapy
or immuno-suppressive drugs (such as those patients who have had an organ
transplant). Those with a compromised immune system can get Toxoplasmosis
again and again. Toxoplasmosis can then invade the eye (ocular
Toxoplasmosis), brain, lungs and heart and severely damage the tissues.
Ocular Toxoplasmosis is particularly dangerous because the Toxoplasma
cysts then become invasive and cause the retina of your eye to be damaged
thus causing varying degrees of blindness.
It is possible for a baby to contract Toxoplasmosis in the womb, the
immune system of a foetus is not fully mature until after birth. The
majority of infants do not show any symptoms after birth. A certain
percentage do however, the few who show clear signs of infection at birth
or shortly after may be born prematurely or are unusually small at birth,
these infants can develop convulsions, cerebral palsy and spasticity,
deafness, mental retardation, brain damage and blindness. The infant may
also have a small head (microcephaly) or an abnormally large head due to
increased fluid accumulation (hydrocephalus).
Although infection doesn’t normally spread from person to person except
through pregnancy, in rare instances Toxoplasmosis can contaminate blood
transfusions and organs donated for transplantation.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TOXOPLASMOSIS? -