The world's first 2 cases of people getting tuberculosis (TB) from their domestic cats have just been recorded in Berks, UK. This is a transmission of bovine TB to a person from their cat who possibly was bitten by a badger or a rat that was infected. This is a bacterial infection. So the way a cat could transmit TB to her human companion would be that the bacteria in the cat is absorbed into the person through a cut on the person.
It seems that the cat is an intermediary. Clearly the cat would have to be an outdoor/indoor cat. As it happens, a lot of cats in the UK are indoor/outdoor cats. However, it will be a very rare incident for a cat to inflect his caretaker with TB. It has been known for some time that bovine TB is transmissible from animal to human and from animal species to different animal species. This is called a zoonotic disease.
However, an actual case, as far as I'm aware, has never been recorded until now. Apparently, a veterinarian noticed a cluster of cats who had been diagnosed with TB which made him ask some questions and referred the matter to a higher authority whereupon the people connected with the infected cats were screened for TB. Two people were found to have TB and 2 more are suspected of contracting TB. Apparently, one cat is connected to 3 of these people.
I do not believe that this is a big news story in reality. It is the kind of story that the newspapers like to publicise. It is and will be all over the online press the next few days and it has already been on UK television. But in reality, it doesn't change anything on the ground between cat and human caretaker. I suspect nothing will happen. People and cat will carry on as before. This is because the chances of catching TB from your cat are so rare that it can be ignored in my opinion. I will certainly ignore it. That said I am living in London, there are very few badgers around here and my cat hardly goes out! However there are rats in London and rats can also transmit the disease to the domestic cat.
The problem, then, is not whether a person becomes infected with TB because of their cat but the possible wider consequences. The 1st is that the UK is currently going through a badger cull. The intention is to reduce the numbers of cattle contracting TB from badgers. The farmers want this. Animal-rights people and people who like animals do not want to see badgers killed in their thousands just for the possibility that it may reduce TB in a farmer's cattle. In any event, vaccinating badgers is quite possibly a far better way of managing TB in badgers.
It is probably almost certain that the badger culls will be extended because of this recent case of 2 people being infected. That would upset me personally.
Secondly, there are many people who dislike cats and actually hate cats and they will no doubt use this story as ammunition to attack the cat, to say how useless the domestic cat is and how the domestic cat spreads disease etc etc. They will most likely try and kill more cats than usual. Some of these cat haters like to shoot or poison them with mothballs or antifreeze and so on. It is quite disgusting and criminal.
The problem, therefore, for me is that there is always a need to raise the profile of the cat, to make the cat more attractive to everyone for the sake of the cat's welfare. If everyone liked the domestic cat and the stray cat they would respect the animal more and treat the animal better.
It has just occurred to me, that there may be a bit of a conspiracy going on here. In England there is a huge debate about whether the culling of badgers is a good thing and whether it will work. I'm being mischievous but I wonder if somebody dreamt up the idea that if it could be shown that a person was infected by their cat with the TB bacteria and the cat was similarly infected by a badger it would strengthen the case for the culling of badgers in large numbers because not only would cattle be at risk but people also. In the world of politics and big business anything is possible and I wouldn't put it past them to dream up such a devious plan.
It is worth mentioning, that these days TB can be treated with antibiotics. It is a long course of treatment but by and large effective although apparently some strains of the infection are resistant. I'm not sure about the science of this but some types of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics if they are overused.
[This post was dictated by Dragon Dictate and sent to this blog by e-mail using Blogger's e-mail publication process. There may be some typos as a consequence for which I will apologise in advance!]
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