Woman contracts horrific disease from her pet cat

·News Reporter
·2-min read

A woman has contracted a rare disease from her pet cat.

The woman, 28, from London, was hospitalised in the emergency department after five days of worsening redness, irritation and discharge in her right eye, according to her case in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors noted her eye had “purulent discharge” and swelling. She was given a number of antibiotics to fix it but despite the treatment, she continued to suffer.

There were concerns she could lose vision in the eye.

A woman, 28, seen with severe eye irritation caused from cowpox contracted from her pet cat (also pictured).
A woman's eye became irritated due to a viral infection from her cat. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

She was given emergency surgery and doctors removed any dead cells from the area.

Doctors were told two weeks after the woman's eye swelled, her pet cat developed lesions on its paws and head.

“Polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) tests of scrapings from the lesions taken by a veterinarian were positive for orthopoxvirus, and a PCR test of a conjunctival swab from the patient was also positive for orthopoxvirus,” researchers wrote.

“Genome sequencing confirmed a diagnosis of cowpox.”

Cowpox is similar to smallpox but far less severe. It’s also a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transferred between species: in this case, cat to person.

Dr Miles Kiernan, an ophthalmologist at Royal Free Hospital in London who treated the patient, told LiveScience it's believed she contracted it after patting her cat and touching her eye.

Once doctors determined the woman had it, they gave her different medication including steroids.

Six months later doctors noted her vision was 20/20 in the eye but she still had some droopiness in the eyelid along with restriction in the eye’s movement.

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