Women, Test Your Health IQ (cont.)

11. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) results in mental and physical problems that are usually outgrown by puberty - False. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition resulting in a group of physical and mental disorders in children of mothers who drink heavily during pregnancy. FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth retardation, and central nervous system problems. Individuals with FAS may have problems with learning, memory, attention span, problem solving, speech, and hearing. They can also have problems in school and problems getting along with others. FAS is an irreversible, lifelong condition that affects every aspect of an individual's life and the lives of his or her family. However, FAS is 100 percent preventable - if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant. For more information, please visit the MedicineNet.com Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center.

12. Approximately 30 percent of new cases of HIV infection in the United States are among women - True. There are an estimated 40,000 new cases of HIV infection in the United States each year. Approximately 30 percent of these cases are among women. About 75 percent of the newly infected women are exposed to HIV heterosexually. An estimated 64 percent are black. Many advances have been made in the treatment of HIV in the past decade, but prevention of infection is still the best protection. For more information, visit the HIV/AIDS Center.

13. Toxoplasmosis is an infection that causes little or no problems in pregnant women, fetuses, or newborns - False. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite named Toxoplasma gondii. Healthy adults acutely infected with Toxoplasma usually do not have symptoms or have minor symptoms such as swollen lymph glands and fever persisting for days to weeks. In addition, eye disease with loss of vision can occur, but this is not common. Infants born to mothers who are first infected with Toxoplasma several months before or during pregnancy are at risk for severe mental or physical illness. However, many infected infants have no symptoms until later in life. Mothers who are first infected with Toxoplasma more than 6 months before becoming pregnant almost never pass the infection to their children.

Infection can occur after accidentally swallowing infective Toxoplasma from undercooked meat, soil, or contaminated surfaces. This can happen by: 1) putting your hands to your mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or by touching anything that has come into contact with cat feces, or 2) eating or tasting undercooked meat that contains the parasite.

Take the following steps to prevent infection with Toxoplasma:

  • Cook meat to safe temperatures.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked all the way through to 160 degrees F.
  • Peel or thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating to remove soil.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, utensils, and hands with hot soapy water after they have contacted raw meat, or unwashed fruits and vegetables.
  • Pregnant women should wear gloves when gardening and during any contact with soil or sand because cat waste might be in soil or sand. After gardening or contact with soil or sand, wash hands thoroughly. Pregnant women should avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else is available to change the cat litter, pregnant women should use gloves, then wash hands thoroughly. The litter box should be changed daily because Toxoplasma requires several days to become infectious. Pregnant women should be encouraged to keep their cats inside and not adopt or handle stray cats. Cats should be fed only canned or dried commercial food or well-cooked table food, not raw or undercooked meat.

For more information, read our MedicineNet.com article on

For reliable in-depth information about health issues concerning women, please visit the Women's Health Center.

Portions of the above information has been provided with kind permission of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).

Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2002

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