Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a protozoa (a microscopic organism) that is found in birds, animals, and humans. The disease is most dangerous for an individual with a suppressed immune system (someone receiving chemotherapy, a patient with AIDS, or a transplant recipient) or a pregnant woman. It affects the gastrointestinal tract, heart, nerves, and skin. The disease can be transmitted by eating undercooked meat from an infected animal, especially lamb and pork, or by handling cat litter if the cat harbors the organism.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Most healthy individuals do not have any symptoms and do not require treatment. Others may have fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and swollen lymph glands. Treatment is necessary for children younger than 5 years to prevent eye complications. Other complications that can occur include inflammation of the brain, heart and lung damage. Complications are more frequent in patients with a suppressed immune system. If a pregnant woman has the infection in the early stages of her pregnancy, she may miscarry, have a stillbirth, or the infant may be born with birth defects.

Most individuals don’t require treatment. Others may need prescription drugs such as sulfadiazine, trisulfapyrimidines, or pyrimethamine for 4–6 weeks. These drugs can cause side effects such as an upset stomach, sun sensitivity, bleeding, or bruising. Your doctor will do blood tests frequently to monitor the side effects. Activity levels will depend on the type of symptoms experienced. Tylenol or tepid sponge baths can be used to reduce the fever. No special diet is needed, but fluid intake should be increased.

The DOs
• Use Tylenol for aches and fever.
• Use tepid sponge baths to help reduce fever.
• Rest until symptoms subside, and gradually increase your activity.
• Continue your medication until finished or stopped by your doctor.
• Take the medication with food to decrease stomach upset.
• Keep appointments for follow-up blood work.
• Use sunscreen when outdoors because the medication may make you more sensitive to the sun.
• Have someone else change the litter box if you suspect you are pregnant, or you have a suppressed immune system.
• Properly cook meats.
• Wash your hands frequently.
• Keep a child’s sandbox covered to keep cats out.
• Keep flies away from food.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t eat undercooked meats, especially lamb and pork, uncooked eggs, or unpasteurized milk.
• Don’t change the cat litter box if you are pregnant, have had an organ transplant, are receiving chemotherapy, or have AIDS.
• Don’t stop taking your medication before it is finished unless ordered by your doctor.
• Don’t stay in the sun for long periods or forget your sunscreen.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the symptoms don’t improve after you start treatment.
• If you experience any bleeding or bruising.
• If you start to have visual changes or increased weakness.