Are Ferrets Harmful to Pregnant Women?

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It's easy to understand why a woman might be overly cautious during pregnancy, especially considering the potential dangers of dealing with some common animals during a fragile time. While the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis is often associated with cats and certain other pets, it is highly uncommon in the ferret world.

About Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a type of parasitic infection that results from the presence of a parasite known as "Toxoplasma gondii." The parasite is highly prevalent, although it often doesn't manifest itself in any noticeable or harmful symptoms. However, it can sometimes be very dangerous in pregnant women -- even leading to issues such as birth defects, such as learning disabilities, blindness and visual impairment. People can contract toxoplasmosis in a variety of different ways, including engaging in close contact with infected animal fecal matter and consuming raw meat. Women with toxoplasmosis also can pass the infection along to their unborn children.

Ferrets and Toxoplasmosis

Cats are often linked with toxoplasmosis because they can emit contagious germ cells within their fecal matter. A cat can get the infection in a variety of different ways, from eating another animal's stools to chowing down on an infected mouse carcass. Pet ferrets not only do not emit the contagious version of the infection with their feces, they also usually live exclusively inside, unlike many cats, who spend their time divided between the indoors and outdoors. The wee mammals also don't usually eat raw foods. Because of these factors, they are an extremely low risk to pregnant women.

Caution

With proper hygiene and care, ferrets are not harmful to pregnant women. If you do own a pet ferret, play with it cautiously and recruit someone else in your household to clean out your ferret's litter tray for a while -- just for the duration of your pregnancy. Also, always use thick gloves whenever you're engaging in activities such as gardening -- anything that may involve accidental contact with animal stool. Impenetrable rubber gloves are the way to go. When you are finished with any of these types of tasks, always carefully and rigorously wash your hands using soap and warm water.

Symptoms

The symptoms of toxoplasmosis are usually very vague. However, those with the infection may experience signs such as unusual exhaustion, fever, sore throat, body aches and headache. If you feel a sense of malaise, toxoplasmosis may be the culprit, so schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.

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