HIV + Cats = Toxo?
BY HIV Plus Editors
July 01 2009 12:00 AM ET
In the early days of the epidemic, panicked HIVers were routinely giving up or abandoning their cats after they learned that they are the only species of animal that can shed the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis -- an AIDS-defining illness marked by neurological diseases and eye damage -- in their feces.
But health experts today say that most AIDS-related toxoplasmosis cases result from parasites that have already been in the body for a considerable length of time. In fact, 15% to 50% of the U.S. population has already been exposed, according to researchers.
Given that information and other scientific data, experts say it's perfectly safe for most HIVers, even those with weakened immune systems, to own cats without a fear of toxoplasmosis infection -- as long as a few simple rules are followed.
> HIVers should be tested for prior exposure to toxoplasmosis parasites and be treated if you have them.
> All meat eaten by people and cats should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
> Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces thoroughly after touching raw meat.
> Wash all vegetables before eating.
> Wear gloves while gardening.
> Keep your cat healthy.
> Do not allow your cat to hunt wild animals.
> Never touch cat feces.
> Keep your cat's litter box away from your kitchen and eating areas.
> If possible, have someone not at risk for toxoplasmosis change your cat's litter box. If not possible, wear gloves and change the litter box daily.
> Use disposable plastic litter-box liners.
> Don't dump used litter; the resulting dust can cause infection. Instead, seal the plastic litter-box liner with a twist tie and place it in a garbage bag for disposal.
> Wash your hands immediately after cleaning a litter box.
> Disinfect your cat's litter box at least once a month with boiling water.