An Ohio pet owner has been left blinded in one eye and doctors say the cause of the blindness has something to do with her beloved cat.
Janese Walters, from Toledo, told WTOL that she’d never heard of cat scratch, the disease which has caused her to lose some of her vision.
“I woke up one day and I couldn't see out of my left eye,” Walters said. “I looked in the mirror and I thought I had pink eye or something.”
Walter said the blindness came without warning signs and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her for about a month. Then she told them about her cat.
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"They discovered I had something called cat scratch," Walters said.
Doctors say cat scratch is caused by a bacteria passed along by cats and kittens, usually through their saliva and sometimes their fur.
"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," Dr. Kris Brickman told WTOL.
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Dr. Brickman said the bacteria isn’t harmful to cats but can be to humans. Only about 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria, he said.
"It can affect the eyes, because what it does is increases blood vessels that creates problems - called antinomies,” said Dr. Brickman. “It can also cause some liver problems and can get into the spinal fluids and create meningitis."
The doctor added that those with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to the disease but said there is a simple solution.
"Basically, go play with your cats, but wash your hands afterwards,” he said. “Don't let them lick any open wounds, and try not to get bit by any cat."
Walters is now adjusting to life with partial blindness.
"It's a big handicap,” she said. “There are a lot of things you have to do differently. I'm just lucky it didn't transfer to my other eye.”
Walters said she wants her experience to serve as a warning to others and added that the disease has not stopped her from loving cats and dogs. She said she still owns pets, she has just become more aware.