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Toxoplasmosis (toxo)

Toxoplasmosis (TOK-soh-plaz-MOH-siss), or toxo, is an infection that can damage your brain. It is caused by a parasite that can be found in cat feces, raw meat, and soil. Toxo is common and doesn't cause illness in most people with healthy immune systems. It can be serious in people with HIV. Risk of toxo is highest when your CD4 count is under 100. Toxo causes headache, confusion, fever, seizures, poor coordination, eye pain, problems seeing, and nausea. When toxo infects the brain in someone with HIV, that person has AIDS. Toxo can be spread in two ways:

  • By eating undercooked meat
  • By touching cat feces that have toxo germs

People with toxo must be treated until the condition improves. If you have AIDS, you might need treatment for a long time or for the rest of your life. The good news is that toxo can be prevented.

These are some ways you can prevent toxo:

  • Don't eat undercooked or raw red meat. Cook meat until its inside temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cook meat until it's no longer pink in the center. Red meat is also safe from toxo if it has been frozen for at least 24 hours, smoked, or cured. Chicken, other fowl, and eggs almost never contain toxo. But you should still cook these foods until well done.
  • Take special care if you have a cat. You do not need to give up your cat.
  • Ask someone who does not have HIV and is not pregnant to change the litter box every day. This will help get rid of any toxo germs before they can hurt you. If you must clean the box yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands well with soap and water right after changing the litter.
  • Keep your cat indoors to prevent it from hunting.
  • Feed your cat only cat food or cook all meat thoroughly before giving it to your cat.
  • If you adopt or buy a cat, get one that is healthy and at least 1 year old.
  • Avoid stray cats and kittens. They are more likely than other cats to have toxo.
  • Wash your hands well after touching raw meat and after gardening, yard work, and other outdoor activities.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables well before eating them raw.
  • If your CD4 count is less than 100, your doctor may prescribe drugs to help prevent toxo and other opportunistic infections.

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More information on Toxoplasmosis (toxo)

Explore other publications and websites

  • Toxoplasmosis - This Web resource gives information about toxoplasmosis, including risk factors, symptoms, prevention, and treatment options.
  • Toxoplasmosis (Copyright © Mayo Clinic) - This website gives information about the symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, tests, treatment, and prevention of this infection.
  • Toxoplasmosis (Copyright © Project Inform) - This publication explains what causes toxoplasmosis, what the symptoms are, how it is treated, how it can be prevented, and why it is a concern for people with HIV.
  • You Can Prevent Toxo - This brochure gives information about how toxoplasmosis can be prevented and what the symptoms are, and explains why people with HIV need to be aware of toxo.

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

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