One Ohio woman lost her vision in one eye after her pet cat licked it- a reminder about the infectious disease risk of cat licks and bites caused by the agent of cat scratch disease (CSD)-Bartonella henselae.

Kitten Public domain image/Rosendahl

Toledo News Now reports that Janese Walters said she woke up one morning and couldn’t see out her left eye. After a month of examination and investigation, physicians determined Walters blindness was due to the Gram-negative bacterium.

People typically get infected from a bite, scratch or a lick. It is usually a benign, self-limiting disease in immunocompetent people. Frequently only flu-like symptoms and a red papule lesion at the site of the scratch are present.

However, as  Dr. Kris Brickman tells the Toledo news source, “It can affect the eyes, because what it does is increases blood vessels that creates problems – called antinomies,” Brickman said. “It can also cause some liver problems and can get into the spinal fluids and create meningitis.”

Related: Infections you can get from domestic cats

In addition to neuroretinitis, hepatitis and meningitis, CSD complications, seen in about 10 percent of cases, can include hearing loss, endocarditis, osteomyelitis and pneumonia. It should be noted that complications are most often found in immunocompromised patients and rarely in individuals with normal immune systems.


As around four out of 10 cats and kittens can carry CSD, handwashing after handling your pet is key. “Don’t let [cats] lick any open wounds, and try not to get bit by any cat,” Brickman added.

Related: London eye doctors see doubling in Acanthamoeba keratitis, start contact lens care campaign