A parasite primarily thriving among cats can be a source of unwanted sickness, experts say.
Date Posted: Nov 19, 2014

A parasite primarily thriving among cats can be a source of unwanted sickness, experts say.


The toxoplasmosis disease, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, primarily targets cats as its hosts. Cats can spread the parasite through their feces.


Experts warn the public that humans can act as intermediate hosts of the parasite. More often, parasites can enter the human body through ingesting contaminated food.


"One can get toxoplasmosis pag nakakain ng undercooked meat like pork or lamb. Sa prutas at gulay, lalo na kung nagmula sa soil and contaminated ng feces ng pusa (One can get toxoplasmosis through eating contaminated meat like pork or lamb. The parasite can also thrive in fruits and vegetables if the soil had been contaminated by a cat’s feces)," said Dr. Windell Rivera, a microbiologist.


As cats are oftentimes household pets, a household may be prone to contamination if sanitary measures are overlooked.


According to the World Health Organization, toxoplasmosis is one of the 5 most commonly “neglected parasitic infection” as the parasite Toxoplasma gondii may be considered asymptomatic, or which shows no signs of symptoms among those with strong immunity.


A person with a strong immune system will immediately develop protection against the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, hence avoiding further harmful effects.


However, some individuals may not be as safe. People with weak immunities may still suffer symptoms while pregnant women and their unborn babies could experience worse.


Among the symptoms caused by the disease include body aches, swollen lymph nodes, head ache fever, or fatigue.


Meanwhile, pregnant mothers who suddenly ingest the parasite could possibly contract congenital toxoplasmosis which could lead to fetal death. The parasite can even cause brain or eye damage, and cause abnormal enlargement of a baby’s head.


Experts, however, assure that mothers who have contracted the parasite before pregnancy could be safer as the body may have already developed immunity against the parasite.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another type of toxoplasmosis, ocular toxoplasmosis, may affect a person's vision. Among the symptoms of this type of infection are redness of the eye, blurred vision, and possible tearing. Medication of this disease is administered by ophthalmologists.


Treatment of the toxoplasmosis, in general, is possible through medication, according to experts; however, completely removing all the parasites from the body may not be possible.


To prevent further diseases, doctors remind the public to start with household sanitary precautions.


Frequent hand washing is advised to avoid contracting the parasite by means of direct contact with contaminated objects. Raw meat, fruits, and vegetables must be thoroughly washed as the parasite may be thriving within. Cooking ingredients must also be thoroughly cooked to kill the parasite.


Lastly experts say maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen, including storage areas and utensils, can avoid further harmful effects and contamination by the parasite.