Cat-borne disease could make it deadly to cuddle kittens, US doctors warn

Doctors from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States conducted a large-scale survey of the cat-borne bacterial fever cat-scratch disease. The scope and impact of cat-scratch disease are wider than previously thought, doctors have found. The disease causes fever, pustules and, in extreme cases, the complications from the illness can cause death. The doctors have warned that hands should always be washed after touching cats, and to avoid kissing cats. The disease is spread among cats by the cat flea, and the doctors advise cat owners to ensure their pets are protected from fleas. Kittens and strays are more likely to carry the disease. The disease is spread by a scratch from an infected cat, or by stroking an infected cat, then touching one’s mouth without washing one’s hands. Kissing and rough play with stray cats and kittens should also be avoided where possible. Cat owners should also be careful about their animals interacting with stray cats where possible. Dr Christina Nelson of the CDC said: “The scope and impact of the disease is a little bit larger than we thought. “Cat-scratch is preventable. If we can identify the populations at risk and the patterns of disease, we can focus the prevention efforts.” However, the disease is relatively rare in the US, with the survey finding that annual incidence was 4.5 outpatient diagnoses/100,000 population. This is more than expected, but is rare enough to mean one isn’t putting one’s life hugely at risk by kissing a kitten.

The Age, 21 September 2016 ; ;