Pet Cats Infect Humans with T.B. for First Ever Time
Two people have contracted tuberculosis (TB) in the first ever cases of cat-to-human transmission. According the Public Health England (PHE), both cases are linked to nine infected cats in Berkshire last year.
Both patients are responding to treatment, but six of the nine cats have died, and the remaining three are still undergoing treatment.
PHE says that bacteria can be transmitted from infected animals to humans by inhaling or ingesting the bacteria shed by the animal, or through unprotected cuts while handling the animals.
PHE still believes, however, that the risk of cat-to-human transmission is very low.
Veterinarians believe that the cats may have caught the disease by venturing into badger setts, or by eating infected rodents that had been in badger setts.
The infected cats were investigated by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), who screened 24 people who had come into contact with them. Two were found to have active TB and another two latent TB.
These cases of tuberculosis were caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium bovis, which is better known as "bovine TB" due to its tendency to infect cattle.
The government launched a trial badger cull last year in order to stop the spread of the disease, and are currently considering continuing it in various areas. Badgers are known to spread TB to cattle, but the revelation that they could also spread it to household pets will cause new concerns.
Symptoms of TB include fever, persistent cough, weight loss and blood in saliva. Although it is curable, delays in treatment can be damaging.