Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. More than 60 million people in the United States have the parasite. Most of them don't get sick. But the parasite causes serious problems for some people. These include people with weak immune systems and babies whose mothers become infected for the first time during pregnancy.
The toxoplasma parasite lives in the flesh of many animals, from mice to cattle, and infects other animals that eat them, like cats and humans. The parasite is killed by cooking and pasteurization.
Approximately 1-3 weeks
Most infections produce no symptoms. Symptoms in otherwise healthy people include:
Symptoms in people with weakened immune systems may be severe. These symptoms include:
What Do I Do?
Most people with toxoplasmosis don't need treatment.
How Can I Prevent Illness?
Pregnant women should avoid contact with cat feces and take the precautions listed above to prevent illness.
All HIV-infected people should get tested for antibody to Toxoplasma soon after their HIV infection is diagnosed.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
If you had toxoplasmosis at least six months before becoming pregnant, your unborn child is protected by your immunity and will not be affected.
If you get toxoplasmosis for the first time while you are pregnant, or just before pregnancy, then you can pass the infection on to your baby. You may not have any symptoms. Most infected newborns do not have symptoms but can develop serious symptoms later in life, such as blindness or mental disability. Some infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.
If you are infected during pregnancy, medication is available. You and your baby should be closely monitored during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
For more information on toxoplasmosis and pregnancy, see:
- Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy FAQs (CDC)
- Brochure: Toxoplasmosis: An Important Message for Women (CDC)
- Before You’re Pregnant: Toxoplasma (FDA)
- While You’re Pregnant: Toxoplasma (FDA)
Toxoplasmosis (NIH MedlinePlus)
Trusted health information on causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
Toxoplasmosis FAQs (CDC)
Answers to frequently asked questions about Toxoplasma and toxoplasmosis.