An 80-year-old grandmother has died in tragic circumstances after suffering bacterial meningitis caused by injuries from her own cat, ‘Minty.’
Doctors found the cat had given her the disease by scratching her arm and then licking the wound which led to the Melbourne woman being found unresponsive in her bed with the cat sleeping nearby.
The woman was taken to Box Hill Hospital where she fell into a coma for nine days before miraculously waking up for a day which she spent interacting with loved ones.
Sadly, the happiness was short-lived, as the elderly grandmother died the following day.
In an interview with the Herald Sun, director of infectious diseases at Melbourne’s Austin Health, Lindsay Grayson, said that at least one person is dying every week due to the unknown dangers of cat saliva.
According to Professor Grayson, cats can carry deadly bacteria such as pasteurella and bartonella which can be devastating for people with weakened immune systems and lead to health complications which include blindness and heart failure.
‘It is a big deal and it is emerging more and more now as an unrecognised cause of heart valve infection, which is obviously fatal if untreated,’ Prof Grayson said.
“Infections related to cat bites and scratches like this person, we’d get at least one a week where somebody comes into the hospital. It is very important that if a cat is biting or scratching you, you mention it to your GP.”
The fact that cats lick their own wounds has given some people the false impression that cat saliva is ‘clean,’ but in reality, this is simply not the case.
In fact, a cat’s mouth harbours one of the highest concentrations of bacteria in existence, and cat saliva is far more likely to cause an infection rather than to treat one.
Pets like cats can provide elderly pet-owners with some much-needed companionship that can help to reduce feelings of isolation. Many cat owners also regularly sleep with their cat on the bed.
However, Professor Grayson warns that people should try and avoid situations where a cat may be able to lick an open wound, and she also believes that people with compromised immune systems should avoid cats altogether.
Photo Credit – iStock – MonikaBatich