Toxoplasmosis is a type of parasitic infection caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii. In most children and adults, toxoplasmosis is a relatively harmless infection. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that approximately 60 million Americans live with toxoplasmosis every day, and for the majority of those infected, it causes no symptoms. The infection is easily managed by a healthy immune system which prevents the parasite from spreading or causing symptoms.
Toxoplasmosis is transmitted in several ways, including eating raw or uncooked meat, touching cat feces, touching dirt and sand, touching cutting boards and utensils used to prepare uncooked or raw meat, fruits, or vegetables, and eating unwashed vegetables and fruit. In short, toxoplasmosis can infect anyone who touches or eats anything present in normal life.
Most people may not know they have toxoplasmosis because they don’t exhibit symptoms. However, those who experience fatigue and achy muscles, discomfort, fever, headache, and swollen glands. These symptoms can persist for a month or longer. People who suspect they may be infected can request a blood test from their medical provider.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnant Women
Toxoplasmosis isn’t usually dangerous if the infected individual has a healthy immune system. However, toxoplasmosis can be a serious infection for a newborn or developing fetus. Mothers infected by toxoplasmosis within six months of getting pregnant can pass it to their babies during pregnancy. A mother who is infected during pregnancy has a 30 percent chance of passing it to their baby. The odds increase the later in the pregnancy the mother is infected. Moreover, the later a baby is infected, the more serious the resulting complications can be.
Mothers who are concerned they may be infected by toxoplasmosis can request a blood test. The blood test is usually not part of the battery of tests that are administered to pregnant parents. If toxoplasmosis is discovered, doctors can treat the infection with antibiotics.
Impacts on Developing Babies
Toxoplasmosis can cause complications during pregnancy. For example, it can cause babies to be born pre-term or even stillbirth. Toxoplasmosis can also cause issues after birth. For example, microcephaly, eyesight problems, jaundice, pneumonia, and enlarged spleens and livers occur in infected babies. These conditions are treatable while the mother is pregnant and after the baby is born. However, the longer a baby goes without treatment, the worst the conditions become.
If a baby is untreated, they could experience significant developmental and intellectual issues. For example, untreated babies experience seizures, hearing loss, and cerebral palsy. These problems are especially acute if a doctor was negligent. The parents can file a birth injury claim against the medical provider for negligence.
If the condition is untreated and not adequately identified, the baby may require significant care and assistance for the rest of their life. The financial consequences of this mistake are devastating for parents. However, parents can recover damages sufficient to provide the necessary care and treatment for their child if the medical provider was negligent in treating the mother during pregnancy and the child after birth.