One woman wishes she’d kept a little more distance between herself and her cat, after suddenly losing her eyesight in her left eye. According to reports, her condition changed literally overnight. Janese Walters told WTOL that she woke up one day unable to see out of her eye.
“I looked in the mirror and I thought I had pink eye or something,” she said.
For months, Walters searched for an answer from doctors—but they were completely stumped over her sudden loss of vision. Then Walters mentioned she had a pet cat and her situation became clear.
Walters had contracted something known as cat scratch disease, which her doctors say is caused by bacteria passed by cats through their saliva and fur.
Now Walters hopes to warn others to be more careful about how they interact with their pets. She said that while she feels lucky the infection didn’t transfer to her other eye, she’s still had to adjust to her new life with impaired vision.
According to Dr. Kris Brickman, the bacteria is carried through anything that’s been exposed to the cat’s mouth.
“If you have a little scratch that the cat licks- that’s how you can get it,” said Dr. Brickman.
He said the bacteria can affect the eyes, liver and even impact the spinal fluids leading to meningitis. He said that while those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk, anybody can potentially contract the disease if exposed to it.
Fortunately, only an estimated 40% of cats are carriers of the bacteria, however humans should still wash their hands thoroughly after petting and interacting with their feline friends.
“Don’t let them lick any open wounds, and try not to get bit by any cat,” Dr. Brickman advises.