Cats can infect their owners with tuberculosis, it has been discovered. The world’s first known case is upsetting news for cat lovers because Nigel Gibbens, the Chief Veterinary Officer has written to veterinarians recommending that cats found to be infected with M.bovis (Mycobacterium bovis) be destroyed. It will give ammunition to cat haters. Mycobacterium bovis causes tuberculosis in cattle. This was already known to be a zoonotic disease but there were no reported cases. [see zoonotic disease – opens new window]
20 out of every 100,000 cats are thought to have bovine TB. That is 0.02 percent of cats. A University of Edinburgh Royal School of Veterinary Studies team said that 17% of cats with TB had a type of bovine TB – from another page on PoC.
The world’s first case of a person being infected with the M.bovis tuberculosis infection occurred in Berkshire, England. It is believed that the cats were infected by badgers or rats through a bite. The assessment was made by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
It appears that people can be infected with tuberculosis from badgers via the domestic cat. This is also very bad news for the badger because as people will know the government is currently engaged in culling badgers on a large scale to try and curtail the transmission of TB to cattle. It would seem that this new development will give ammunition to farmers to extend the cull.
There have been 2 confirmed cases of human TB infection from cats and 2 suspected cases. Apparently, a veterinarian in Newbury, Berks spotted a cluster of infections in cats and notified Public Health England (PHE). Consequently, 24 people were screened, Of which two tested positive. The two people are responding well to treatment. It appears that three of the cases were linked to one cat.
PHE say that the risk of people catching this infection from infected cats is very low. However, they recommend that “household and close contacts of cats with confirmed M.bovis infection should be assessed and receive public health advice”.
Nowadays TB is curable. The treatment usually involves a 6 months course of antibiotics but apparently some forms of the disease are drug-resistant. The symptoms are a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks which may bring up some blood.
This is a developing story and no doubt there will be lots more written about this in the future but I hope that all cat owners and lovers will understand that this is rare and therefore they should not be concerned or take any unnecessary or unreasonable steps.
All cat owners should carry on as normal because this may have been around for years and nothing happened. Is this a new problem or the revelation of an existing problem? I suspect that this story change when more is known.
Important: no one should do anything which may harm a cat in anyway because of this news. Wait and see.