HSUS campaigns to debunk toxoplasmosis myths

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The Humane Society of the United States is contacting more than 31,000 obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide with information to help them and their patients understand the risks of toxoplasmosis. The message is that pregnant women need not give up their cats.

"Misinformation about toxoplasmosis is widespread," said Patrick Duff, MD, residency program director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Florida.

Dr. Duff penned the cover letter that accompanies the new HSUS brochure "Your Baby & Your Pet," which will be mailed to members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The HSUS is also sending them "Toxoplasmosis: A Practical Guide for the Clinician," written by Jeffrey D. Kravetz, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine. The brochures are part of the HSUS Pets for Life program, which helps people resolve obstacles to keeping pets in the family.

"It is important that physicians provide the correct information, which will help our patients to remain healthy during pregnancy and their cats to remain members of their families," Dr. Duff said.

Dr. Duff notes that it is extremely unlikely that a cat kept indoors will carry toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats have a slightly higher risk.

"A pregnant woman should stay away from cleaning the cat's litter box, if possible," Dr. Duff wrote. "If she must clean the litter box, careful instruction and proper hygiene will be the keys to prevention."

The "Your Baby & Your Pet" brochure includes information to help pet owners prepare pets for the new baby's arrival and to help acclimate pets once the baby comes home.