TOLEDO, Ohio — Without any warning signs, an Ohio woman suddenly went blind and after more than a month of trying to figure out what happened, her doctors identified the culprit: a furry, four-legged feline.
“I woke up one day and I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” pet owner Janese Walters told WTOL. “I looked in the mirror and I thought I had pink eye, or something. I went to the doctors and they couldn’t figure out for some time what it was. ”
Doctors were puzzled for more than a month. They couldn’t pinpoint what caused the sudden blindness. Until Walters told them about her pet.
“They discovered I had something called cat scratch,” Walters said.
As the name suggests, cat scratch is a bacteria passed along by cats and kitten through either their saliva or fur, doctors said.
“Anything that is exposed to the cat’s mouth, including if you have a little scratch that the cat licks, that’s how you can get it,” said Dr. Kristopher Brickman with FACEP/University of Toledo.
Brickman said about 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria, which isn’t harmful to them but can be harmful to humans.
“It can affect the eyes because what it does is increases blood vessels. That creates problems called antinomies,” he said. “It can also cause some liver problems and can get into the spinal fluids and create meningitis.”
Those with weak immune system are at higher risk. But Brickman said the solution is simple.
“Basically go play with your cats but was your hands afterwards,” he said. “Don’t let them lick any open wounds, and try not to get bit by any cat.”
Walters said she had no idea about cat scratch before doctors diagnosed her with it.
“I’m just lucky it didn’t transfer to my other eye,” she said, calling her illness “a big handicap.”
She now wants her experience to be a warning to others before it’s too late.
“It’s real important,” she said. “You don’t want to lose your eyesight.”