Pet cats linked to fatal infections in the elderly

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The Independent Online
PET CATS may carry a microbe which causes potentially fatal infections in the elderly, chronically sick, and people with weakened immune systems, writes Liz Hunt.

American scientists are warning doctors to watch out for symptoms of infection with a recently-discovered bacterium, Rochalimaea henselae.

More than 40 per cent of cats tested were carriers, although they did not show any signs of illness. But in infected humans the bacterium can cause lesions of the skin, bone and organs, inflammation of the heart membranes, fever, and a condition known as cat- scratch disease.

With about 57 million cats in US households, the number of humans at risk of developing the infection is 'potentially vast', according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There are at least 7 million domestic cats in the UK.

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