Pet cats aren't hazard to pregnant women

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You do not have to give up your cat if you are pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

Many pregnant women have gotten rid of their cats because cats can spread toxoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by a parasite. If a pregnant woman is exposed to the parasite, she can pass the infection to the fetus, and the baby could be mentally retarded or blind or have epilepsy.

Doctors have been known to tell pregnant women to get rid of pet cats.

The Humane Society of the United States in 2004 embarked on an educational campaign that included mailing brochures to 31,000 members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Facts and "myths" were spelled out in the brochure, and doctors were asked to spread the message that pregnant women do not have to give up their cats.

The brochure was written by Dr. Jeffrey D. Kravetz of the Yale University School of Medicine.

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, can be found in the feces of cats that eat raw meat, birds or mice that harbor the parasite.

According to the CDC:

Toxoplasmosis is very rare in this country, and a simple blood test will reveal whether you were exposed to toxoplasmosis during your pregnancy.

Pregnant woman can be exposed to toxoplasmosis by eating raw or undercooked meat or from gardening in soil contaminated with the parasite.

Indoor cats are highly unlikely to pick up the parasite, but don't get a new cat or kitten while you are pregnant because you have no way of knowing whether it has been exposed to the parasite.

Raw meat fed to cats can be a source of toxoplasma infection.

Ideally, the cat litter box should be changed by someone other than the pregnant woman.

Wear disposable gloves, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water if you do change the litter box.

Thoroughly wash hands after any exposure to soil, sand, raw meat or unwashed vegetables.

Wash and peel fruits and vegetables before eating them.


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