Woman dies after contracting a deadly virus probably from a cat

Woman dies after contracting a deadly virus probably from a cat

The disease is most commonly spread by ticks infecting domesticated animals.

According to a report, a woman in Japan died last year from a deadly disease that she probably contracted from a stray cat. The disease, Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) is caused by SFTS virus. It is almost always spread by ticks, though contaminated blood can also transmit the infection from one person to another. And that makes this case so unique. Because, if proven, this would be the first case of transmission of the virus from a pet to a human. 

Case in point

The unnamed 50-year-old woman in Japan found a stray cat who was unwell. She decided to care for the cat. It is unclear whether the cat bit her, but she became severely ill. And 10 days after the first contact with the cat, she dies because of SFTS.

The doctors suspected a tick bite to be the cause of the transmission. However, they examined her body and a tick bite mark was nowhere to be found. In the absence of a conclusive proof of transmission, the doctors assumed that the woman contracted the disease from the cat.

Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome

SFTS is a disease where a patient has a high fever with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count). Platelets present in the blood are necessary for normal clotting of the blood. In the cases of alarmingly low platelet counts, the person has a chance of severe internal bleeding. In severe cases of SFTS, multi-organ failure ensures and up to 1 in 3 cases can die.

SFTS is most commonly seen in China, though cases have been reported in South Korea and Japan. The tick, Haemaphysalis longicorn is found infecting farm animals like goats. These ticks often transfer the virus to the host, in this case, the goats. However, the infection rate in humans is not much, and so, not much is known about the disease in general. What we know is that there is a possibility of a mild, subclinical infection, but the severe form can also lead to the death of the individual. 

Thankfully, there have been no cases of SFTS reported in Singapore. That said, it is wise to be vigilant in the face of this ghastly disease. 

Pets and children

Woman dies after contracting a deadly virus probably from a cat

Pets add an immense value to the life of a child. It builds up empathy and responsibility while reducing anxiety. That said, proper care is necessary to ensure that the pets do not unknowingly harm the child in some way. While some pets like goldfish are generally safe, dogs, cats, and pet rodents may end up making your child sick if sufficient care is not taken.

If you have a pet dog or a cat, or are considering getting one, you need to take care of these 3 things. 

1# Ticks

Ticks are parasites that end up hounding dogs and cats. There are different species of ticks, however, they trouble the poor pet in more or less the same way. Dogs and cats pick up ticks while playing outdoors, or by coming in contact with another dog or cat infested by the ticks. They can cause diseases like Lyme disease in humans, though the pets may not fall ill. 

The way to deal with it is to brush the coat properly every time the pet returns from outside. In addition, you need to apply the tick medication as indicated by your vet. 

2# Claws

The claws of a dog or a cat are meant to provide a natural protection to the animal. However, they may end up hurting your children. 

In addition to a physical injury, cats can pass on a bacteria, Bartonella henselae, that can cause the Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) in humans. This bacteria is not uncommonly found in cats, and a simple test can detect it.

CSD is a low-grade fever accompanied by a bump near the scratch site and swollen lymph nodes. However, it may cause serious complications like swelling of the brain, inflammation of the retina and the optic nerve, and bone damage in people with less immunity, like children. 

If you own a cat, it is better to get it tested.

3# Pet allergies

Sometimes, you might not own a pet. However, your child may go to his friend's house, and come in contact with one. If your child has pet allergies, he might start sneezing, experience a difficulty breathing, and might develop rashes on the body.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the reason is due to allergens produced by cats and dogs that are present in their fur, skin, and saliva. The trouble is, your child might be too young to notice the onset of the reaction and might have trouble explaining what he is going through. It is better if you educate your child about pets, especially the allergy part, especially if they suffer from eczema or asthma. 

Mums and dads, take care of these pet grooming basics and ensure that your child enjoys his pet to the fullest extent. 

Animal Welfare in Singapore

Mums and dads, when it comes to kids, it's always safety first so do advise them never to touch a stray animal. 

If you or your children spot a stray cat and are worried about its welfare, it's most likely that it is what is termed as a 'community cat' - meaning, the community takes care of its needs and it most probably has been neutered and vaccinated.

However, if you would like to double-check, you may get in touch with the Cat Welfare Society, Singapore

Other than this, here are some more useful contacts in relation to animal/ pet welfare in Singapore: 

Lost Pets:

  • SPCA 62875355
  • Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority 1800 476 1600 57 Sungei Tengah Rd Singapore 699013
  • Straits Times Classifieds 1800-2899988 (Free Ad)

24hrs Emergency:

For animal cruelty matters:

  • SPCA 62875355 (Domestic animals)
  • ACRES 97837782 (Wildlife)
  • Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority 1800 476 1600

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave us a comment below. 

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Any views or opinions expressed in this article are personal and belong solely to the author; and do not represent those of theAsianparent or its clients.

Written by

Anay Bhalerao

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