Could you catch TB from YOUR tabby? Fear as four British people catch disease from CATS in Home Counties in first-ever known cases of feline-human transmission

Two people have been diagnosed with active TB while two have latent TB Nine cats in Hampshire and Berkshire were investigated for TB infection All the pets were taken to the same veterinary surgery in Newbury Experts unclear how the animals contracted the disease Bacteria can spread to humans if it is breathed in, enters a cut or is ingested Cats have passed TB to humans for the first time in an outbreak feared to have been caused by badgers.Two people from the same household are being treated for bovine tuberculosis after they caught the disease from their kitten. Two other cat owners have been infected with a dormant form of TB. Nine cats were infected in the Home Counties in a matter of weeks. Six were put down or have died, two have survived, but one, an 18-month-old tabby called Milhouse, has run away. Seven of the cats had bite wounds, which vets say probably came from fighting with badgers, who are prolific carriers of bovine TB. In recent years, scientists have warned that cats could spread TB to their owners, but these are believed to be the first documented cases in the world.
The infection was passed to each of the patients during an unprecedented outbreak of the disease among cats in Newbury, Berkshire, last year. The patients, whose diagnoses were revealed last night, are responding to treatment, according to Public Health England, which classified the risk of further transmissions as ‘very low’. The alarm was raised by vet Carl Gorman after a series of cats – including his own pet, Milhouse – started displaying chronic lung conditions and suspicious wounds. TB in cats is rare, with barely 25 cases seen each year in the UK. Last year’s Newbury outbreak was unprecedented. Dr Gorman, clinical director of the Falkland Veterinary Clinic in Newbury, said the disease had its roots in an outbreak of bovine TB among cows on the outskirts of the town. Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail last night, he said: ‘My colleague saw a cat which had a lesion that wasn’t healing so we looked for TB. ‘There were cases dotted around Newbury with a cluster of cases in and around Greenham Common. ‘It’s quite unusual for cats to get TB but not unheard of, but it is quite rare for a cluster of cats like this to get it.’ Public Health England officials said the two patients who had been infected by the TB bacteria mycobacterium bovis were undergoing treatment. Two other owners were diagnosed with ‘latent TB’, which means they have been exposed to the infection but are not displaying symptoms. Dr Dilys Morgan, of Public Health England, said: ‘These are the first documented cases of cat-to-human transmission. ‘Although PHE has assessed the risk of people catching this infection from infected cats as being very low, we are recommending that household and close contacts of cats with confirmed M. bovis infection should be assessed and receive public health advice. ‘It’s important to remember that this was a very unusual cluster of TB in domestic cats.’ Mike Mandelbaum, chief executive of the charity TB Alert, said: ‘In the UK we are a nation of cat lovers, so this may prove quite shocking for people who may now look at their pets in a different light. ‘Although I would stress that the risk of catching TB from a cat is likely to remain very low, this is a stark reminder that TB is still a problem in the UK today, with almost 9,000 people developing it last year.’ Dr Gorman said the two people with active TB were infected by a kitten. He added: ‘This cat was quite young and was suffering from an open sore which makes the risk of infection greater. ‘Before the pet was diagnosed with TB, the owners may have been cleaning the wound without wearing gloves or taking other precautions.’ Six of the infected cats lived in homes within 250 yards of each other on a housing estate near Greenham Common. The other three lived within three miles. Some 39 people who had come into contact with the cats were offered TB screening, including Dr Gorman, his wife Claire and four children. Their cat Milhouse was one of those infected – and has since disappeared. Dr Gorman, 52, who has three dogs and four other cats, said: ‘Milhouse was sat on my lap one day and I felt a lump on his leg. We had already had a few cases so I had him checked. He was responding well to treatment but has since gone missing.’ He fears the tabby was killed in an accident and says it is unlikely Milhouse could be spreading the infection further. Bovine TB has ravaged the British farming industry, with farms forced to slaughter 30,000 cows with the disease each year. Badgers are blamed for accelerating its spread, and the Government is trialling a controversial cull of the animals to limit the problem. Professor Noel Smith, of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, said: ‘Testing of nearby herds revealed a small number of infected cattle with the same strain of M. bovis as the cats. ‘However, direct contact of the cats with these cattle was unlikely considering their roaming ranges. The most likely source of infection is infected wildlife, but cat-to-cat transmission cannot be ruled out.’ Cattle herds with confirmed cases of bovine TB in the area have been placed under movement restrictions to prevent the spread of disease.
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Write by: Dj Donk - Thursday, March 27, 2014

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