Man contracts rare, potentially life-threatening disease from his pet cat

Man contracts rare, potentially life-threatening disease from his pet cat

Anyone who owns a cat is likely to count their furry companion as one of the best things in their life. However, one American pensioner recently had a traumatic experience with his feline when he allegedly contacted an incredibly rare disease from it.

The 68-year-old from Missouri was diagnosed with glandular tularemia after he suffered from a fever and a painful swelling on the right side of his neck, an illness doctors reportedly believe originated from his pet.

Disease from cat Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine

The unusual incident started when the pensioner's cat died two days before he showed any symptoms, with a vet diagnosing it with feline leukemia without doing any lab testing. It is believed the cat must have been suffering from a subacute illness but was treated with prednisone tablets, administrated by its owner.

Shortly after, the man experienced a week of fever, which was followed by two months of progressive, painful swelling on the right side of his neck. When he eventually saw a doctor, the patient’s physical examination revealed three erythematous, tender lymph nodes.

The 68-year-old American was then diagnosed with glandular tularemia, a rare disease caused by the Francisella tularensis bacterium, which reportedly has over a 50 per cent chance of leading to fatal pneumonia.

Cat Credit: Krysten Merriman

After examining him, doctors at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, have since determined that his pet cat must have been suffering from tularemia, which it passed on to its owner.

"Domestic cats can become infected through the consumption of infected prey and can transmit the bacteria to humans," states the New England Journal of Medicine, which first published the story on September 6, 2018.

Thankfully, the patient was treated with doxycycline for 4 weeks and his condition eventually passed; the lesions improved within 5 days and resolved within 3 weeks.

Tularemia is a rare infectious disease that commonly attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that it largely affects rabbits, hares and rodents which often die in large numbers during outbreaks.

Bug Credit: icon0.com

In addition, the website notes that humans can become infected through several routes, including tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals, ingestion of contaminated water, inhalation of contaminated aerosols agricultural dusts and laboratory exposure.

Humans could also be exposed as a result of bioterrorism, defined as the "use of infectious agents or other harmful biological or biochemical substances as weapons of terrorism".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people potentially at risk take steps to avoid the disease by using insect repellent, wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals and avoiding mowing over dead animals.