First cases alert: Cats spread TB to four people

Experts stressed that cat-to-human transmission is very rare

Two people have developed tuberculosis (TB) after coming into contact with a domestic cat, in the first ever recorded cases of cat-to-human transmission, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

The cat was infected with the Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis)  bacteria, which causes bovine TB in cattle and other animals.

Nine cases of M. bovis infection in domestic cats in Berkshire and Hampshire were investigated by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and PHE last year.

PHE said there have been no further cases of TB in cats reported in the two areas since March 2013, and said it believed the risk of transmission from cats to humans was “very low”.

The organisation said it had offered TB screening to 39 people identified as having had contact with the nine infected cats, with 24 people accepting.

Two were found to have active TB in their systems, and are responding to treatment. There were two additional cases of latent TB, meaning the people had been exposed to TB at some point but did not have an active infection.

Analysis of the samples of active TB from the humans and the infected cats by the AHVLA showed the M. bovis was “ indistinguishable”.

This “indicates transmission of the bacterium from an infected cat”, PHE said.

In the cases of latent TB infection, it was not possible to confirm if they were caused by M. bovis.

According to PHE, transmission of the bacteria from infected animals to humans “can occur by inhaling or ingesting bacteria shed by the animal or through contamination of unprotected cuts in the skin while handling infected animals or their carcasses”.

Dr Dilys Morgan, head of gastrointestinal, emerging and zoonotic diseases department at PHE, said: “It's important to remember that this was a very unusual cluster of TB in domestic cats.

M. bovis is still uncommon in cats - it mainly affects livestock animals.

"These are the first documented cases of cat-to-human transmission and so, 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."

TB is a serious condition but can be cured with proper treatment, namely antibiotics taken for at least six months. The disease mainly affects the lungs but can affect any part of the body, including the bones and nervous system.

Typical symptoms include having a persistent cough for more than three weeks that brings up phlegm (which may be bloody), weight loss and night sweats.

People can also experience a fever, tiredness and fatigue and a loss of appetite.

Usually, TB only spreads after prolonged exposure to someone with the illness, such as living in the same house.

In 2012, 8,751 cases of TB were reported in the UK.

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.

"As TB is airborne, the best way to control the spread of all forms of this curable illness, including those transmitted by animals, is for it to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible."

Additional reporting by PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world