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Cats infect humans with Tuberculosis: How do I know if my cat has TB?

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 28, 2014

  • Has your cat got TB

  • Two people in England have developed tuberculosis after contact with a domestic cat

Comments (13)

Two people in England have developed tuberculosis after contact with a domestic cat infected with Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), Public Health England (PHE) and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) have announced. M. bovis is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) in cattle (bovine TB) and in other species.

Nine cases of M. bovis infection in domestic cats in Berkshire and Hampshire were investigated by AHVLA and PHE during 2013. PHE offered TB screening to 39 people identified as having had contact with the infected cats as a precautionary measure. 24 contacts accepted screening. Following further investigations, a total of two cases of active TB and two cases of latent TB were identified. Latent TB means they had been exposed to TB at some point but they did not have active disease. Both cases of active TB disease have confirmed infection with M. bovis and are responding to treatment.

There have been no further cases of TB in cats reported in Berkshire or Hampshire since March 2013. PHE has assessed the risk of transmission of M. bovis from cats to humans as being very low.

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.”

Related content

News Release

The findings of the animal health aspects of this investigation are published in The Veterinary Record today.

Molecular analysis at AHVLA showed that M. bovis isolated from the infected cats and the human cases with active TB infection were indistinguishable, which indicates transmission of the bacterium from an infected cat. In the other cases of latent TB infection, it is not possible to confirm whether these were caused by M. bovis or the source of their exposure.

Transmission of M. bovis 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.

Professor Noel Smith, Head of the Bovine TB Genotyping Group at AHVLA, 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 all been placed under movement restrictions to prevent the spread of disease.

Local human and animal health professionals are remaining vigilant for the occurrence of any further cases of disease caused by M. bovis in humans, cats or any other pet and livestock animal species.

Find out more here:

How do I know if my cat has TB

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13 comments

  • agaga  |  March 29 2014, 9:00AM

    citon, what is your level? you seem to class your self as a animal lover, I take it you are a Vegan. I know you are thick, as you don't understand my post. My "mindset" as you call it, is NO animals should die at the hand of humans, that includes cows.

  • citon  |  March 28 2014, 8:35PM

    To "agaga"... My previous comment stands. You clearly have a mindset that considers that the killing of animals is justified if you don't like them. If I were to come down to your level, I could be suggesting that the same fate befalls anyone who commits violence against animals. Thankfully, I will never come down to anything like your level.

    |   3
  • agaga  |  March 28 2014, 6:37PM

    I don't know where my previous comment went, so i will post it again. shoot them, like they do the badgers, this was to make a point, not advocating shooting cats, you thicko's If anyone thinks i am not an animal lover for saying this, think again, i am probably one of the only animal lovers on here, as i don't eat them. and cat that are out at night do decimate the wildlife, and should be kept in.

  • RoadWombat  |  March 28 2014, 2:16PM

    Let's not get this out of proportion - the risk will be small. However, if such a problem does escalate (and it'll probably take many, many years to do so) it'll be the feral cats that will be the problem, rather than pets that can be monitored by their owners.

    |   1
  • citon  |  March 28 2014, 12:19PM

    No Not you Mr Anarchy! There was a particularly nasty comment from a posting that has gone, from somebody who sees no value in animal life. Very sad that someone like that has probably never experienced either the giving or receiving, the love of any pet.

    |   1
  • bonzaharris1  |  March 28 2014, 11:44AM

    Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic, primarily respiratory infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. TB can affect nearly all warm-blooded mammals, including farmed animals, wildlife, pets and humans. Above is an excerpt from TIG's link, on how do I know if my cat has TB. As you can see TB can affect all warm blooded animals, including humans, farm animals, wildlife and family pets. It does mention as such in the last paragraph of this article, but does not make it abundantly clear that cats are not the only family pet that it can affect. Just thought I would point it out before the ignorant and downright cruel members of society use is as an excuse start harming peoples cats for their sick pleasure. It would seem that all pets should perhaps be vaccinated for TB.

    |   3
  • citon  |  March 28 2014, 11:28AM

    Something strange going on with comments. Mine was aimed at a posting that seems to have gone, not the wisdom from Mr Toadhall!

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  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 28 2014, 11:24AM

    citon me or toadhall99?

    |   -24
  • bonzaharris1  |  March 28 2014, 11:23AM

    Sorry, that should read "no need to force people".

    |   2
  • bonzaharris1  |  March 28 2014, 11:22AM

    I would like to think that there would be need to force people GlosAnarchy, if they can provide a vaccination for cat TB, then just add it to the vaccinations that you give your pets annually. I for one would be first in the queue to get it done, for both my cats sake, mine and everyone else. But then not everyone is a responsible owner, and as TB is a notifiable disease, then perhaps a vaccination should be developed, and it become a requirement of law to have your cat vaccinated. What about other pets too are they at risk of contracting this and possibly passing it on to humans, it should be looked at, acted on and nipped in the bud while the risk is minimal.

    |   4

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