Furry friend or feline menace?
"Cats have passed TB to humans for the first time," the Daily Mail reports. Authorities are closely monitoring the situation and the risk of further transmission has been described as "very low".
The headline is based on the news that two people in England have developed tuberculosis (TB) after contact with a domestic cat infected with Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). This bacterium is a leading cause of TB in cattle and a less common cause, in other species.
This is newsworthy as these are the first documented cases of cat-to-human transmission anywhere in the world.
Between December 2012 and March 2013, a veterinary practice in Newbury, Berkshire, diagnosed nine cases of M. bovis infection in domestic cats. Two people who had contact with these cats were found to have an active TB infection.
Cat owners are advised to not be anxious. Though TB can be spread from animals to humans, the risk of cat owners or their families becoming infected is thought to be very low. If owners have a pet that is unwell they should consult a vet.