Cat Diseases and Parasites that can Infect People, Animal Law Update

Animal Law Update

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Cat Diseases and Parasites that can Infect People

Pets are increasingly important in this and other developed countries.

Many pet owners are unaware of the diseases and parasites their pets may harbor that can cause illness to humans. This is one reason that proper veterinary care through routine visits to a veterinarian is so important.

The transmission of diseases between people and pets is the basis for the “One Health Initiative” whose goal is to “unite human and veterinary medicine.” Check out their website, where you will find information about the history of this organization and the important work they are undertaking to share information about the new or re-emerging diseases, 70% of which are zoonotic (spread between animals and humans) or vector-borne (transmitted by vectors, including insects).

As recently discussed here, cats, like other animals can harbor and transmit a number of diseases and parasites to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading public health institute in the United States, contains a plethora of scientific information and data on its website, including “[t]he most common diseases associated with cats that can cause human illness.”

The description of these diseases and parasitic disorders is republished below to demonstrate why it is so important for cat owners to take care of their pets, which, in turn will help keep all family members healthy.

Campylobacter is a type of bacteria that spreads through contaminated food (meat and eggs), water, or contact with stool (poop) of infected animals. Cats infected with Campylobacter may show no signs of illness at all or may have diarrhea.

Most people who become sick with campylobacteriosis will have diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within 2-5 days after exposure to the organism. Campylobacter bacteria can cause serious life-threatening infections in infants, older persons, and those with weakened immune systems.

Cat-scratch disease is a bacterial disease that people may get after being bitten or scratched by a cat. About 40% of cats carry the bacteria at some time in their lives, although kittens younger than 1 year of age are more likely to have it. Most cats with this infection show no signs of illness.

People who are bitten or scratched by an affected cat may develop a mild infection 3-14 days later at the site of the wound. The infection may worsen and cause fever, headache, poor appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the person’s lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful. Seek medical attention if you believe you have cat-scratch disease.


Cheyletiellosis is a mild, short-term skin inflammation caused by mites that feed on skin cells. Cheyletiella is spread through contact with infested animals. Pets such as rabbits and adult cats may not show signs of infestation. However, affected kittens may have patches of scaly skin with dandruff.

The most common symptoms of cheyletiellosis in people include itching, redness, and raised bumps on areas of the skin that touched the infested animal. Cheyletiellosis in people generally resolves on its own.


Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through contaminated food or water from an infected person or animal. Cryptosporidiosis in cats is rare, but they can carry the germ without showing any signs of illness.

Cryptosporidiosis can cause profuse, watery diarrhea with cramping, abdominal pain, and nausea in people and many types of animals. Illness in people is usually self-limiting and lasts only 2-4 days, but can become severe in people with weakened immune systems.


Echinococcosis is a disease caused by eating or drinking food and water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or through contact with an infected animal. Cats become infected by eating tissue of an infected animal. Cats rarely show any signs of disease, but can be infected with a large number of adult tapeworms.

Although Echinococcus invades many different organs of the body, most people who are infected with the disease will not have any signs of illness for years. Symptoms start when the slow-growing cysts become large enough to press on the organs they have invaded. The tapeworms grow slowly in several different organs of the body, most commonly the liver and lungs.


Giardia is a parasite that causes diarrhea in animals and people. Giardia is transmitted to animals and people through food or water contaminated with stool.

Symptoms for animals and people include diarrhea, greasy stools, and dehydration. People can also have abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last 1-2 weeks.


Cat hookworms are tiny worms that can spread through contact with contaminated soil or sand. Cats can also become infected with hookworms through accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment or through their mother’s milk or colostrum. Hookworm infections can cause anemia and weight loss in kittens. Severe infections can be fatal.

People become infected with cat hookworms while walking barefoot, kneeling, or sitting on ground contaminated with stool (poop) of infected animals. Hookworm larvae enter the top layers of skin and cause an itchy reaction called cutaneous larva migrans. A red squiggly line may appear where the larvae have migrated under the skin. Symptoms usually resolve without medical treatment in 4-6 weeks.

Staphylococcus aureus is a common type of bacteria that is normally found on the skin of people and animals. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the same bacterium that has become resistant to some antibiotics. Cats and other animals often can carry MRSA without being sick, but MRSA can cause a variety of infections, including of the skin, respiratory tract, and urinary tract.

MRSA can be transmitted back and forth between people and animals through direct contact. In people, MRSA most often causes skin infections that can range from mild to severe. If left untreated, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.


Pasteurellosis is a bacterial disease associated with animal bites and scratches. Pasteurella is a normal bacterium that lives in the mouths of healthy cats. The bacteria do not typically make cats sick; however, cats can develop abscesses or skin infections in places where they were scratched or bitten by another animal.

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In people, pasteurellosis causes painful wound and skin infections. In severe cases, it can cause widespread infection and might even affect the nervous system.

Plague is a bacterial disease in animals and people that can lead to serious illness or death if left untreated. Cats are highly susceptible to plague and their symptoms are similar to those experienced by humans. Cats that hunt wild rodents and rabbits in the western, particularly the southwestern, United States are at greatest risk of becoming infected.

People most often become infected through flea bites or from contact with body fluids of infected animals. Bubonic plague is the most common form; symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, malaise, and swollen lymph nodes. The other two forms of plague, septicemic and pneumonic, cause more severe disease. Cats infected with plague can infect people through bites, scratches, coughs, or sneezes.


Rabies, a fatal neurologic disease in animals and people, is caused by a virus. Animals and people are most commonly infected through bites from rabid animals. Infected cats may have a variety of signs, but most often have sudden behavioral changes and progressive paralysis. Cats may also appear restless, pant, and attack other animals, people, or objects. Animals with rabies typically die within a few days of appearing sick. Owners should vaccinate their cats against this deadly disease.

The first symptoms in people can start days to months after exposure; they include generalized weakness, fever, and headache. Within a few days, symptoms progress to confusion, anxiety, and behavioral changes. If you have been bitten by a cat or other animal and feel that there is a risk for rabies, contact your health care provider right away. Once symptoms appear, it is almost always too late for treatment.

Ringworm is a condition caused by a fungus that can infect skin, hair, and nails of both people and animals. Ringworm is passed from animals to people through direct contact with an infected animal’s skin or hair. Cats infected with ringworm typically have small areas of hair loss around their ears, face, or legs, with scaly or crusty skin. But some cats carrying ringworm have no signs of infection at all. Kittens are most commonly affected.

Ringworm infections in people can appear on almost any area of the body. These infections are usually itchy. Redness, scaling, cracking of the skin, or a ring-shaped rash may occur. If the infection involves the scalp or beard, hair may fall out. Infected nails become discolored or thick and may possibly crumble.

Toxocara roundworms cause a parasitic disease known as toxocariasis. Cats and people can become infected by swallowing roundworm eggs from the environment. Cats can also become infected as young kittens. Larval worms can come through the milk of a mother cat, passing the infection on to her kittens. Infected kittens usually do not seem sick. Those that do may have mild diarrhea, dehydration, rough coat, and a pot-bellied appearance.

In people, children are most often affected with roundworm. There are two forms of the disease in people: ocular larva migrans and visceral larva migrans. Ocular larva migrans happens when the larvae invade the retina (tissue in the eye) and cause inflammation, scarring, and possibly blindness. Visceral larva migrans occurs when the larvae invade parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, or central nervous system.

Salmonella spreads to people through contaminated food (eggs and meat) or contact with stool of certain animals, including cats. Cats can get salmonellosis through eating infected birds. While it usually does not make the cats sick, Salmonella infection can cause serious illness when it is passed to people.

People infected with Salmonella bacteria may have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or abdominal cramps. Infants, elderly persons, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.


Sporotrichosis is a fungal disease that can affect both animals and people. It is usually acquired from the environment through a cut or scrape in the skin but can be acquired from contact with animals as well. Infection with sporotrichosis in cats can range from no signs of illness to very serious disease. Signs often begin with small draining wounds that become raised lumps with the surface eroded away. The disease can worsen.

Three forms of sporotrichosis can infect people.

The first form is the cutaneous or skin form, which can progress from small raised areas on the skin to infection invading the lymph nodes and forming nodules that eventually ulcerate.

The second is the disseminated form, which occurs when the infection affects the internal organs and bones.

In the third form, the pulmonary form, a person acquires the infection through inhalation the fungus into the lungs, which often leads to chronic disease similar to tuberculosis.

Most healthy people who become infected with Toxoplasma show no signs or symptoms. However, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune systems may be at risk for serious health complications.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can spread to people and animals through contaminated soil, water, or meat, and contact with stool from an infected cat. Cats are the main source of infection to other animals but rarely appear sick.

The latter two forms are potentially fatal.

How Do You Get Scabies

130 million people in the world are found to be infected with scabies at a given time approximately. This highly contagious skin condition spreads through infested clothing, infested bedding or through direct skin contact with the infected person.

What are scabies and how do you get them?

Scabies is a skin infection which is caused by a mite. This mite is known as Sarcoptes Scabiei. These reproduce on the surface of the skin, burrow into the skin and lay eggs in it. If left untreated, these mites can survive on the skin for months together. They cause red and itchy rashes on the skin which can be very bothersome.

Itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) left and Velvet mite (Trombidium holosericeum) right / vintage illustration from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1897

These can be got rid of effectively by treating them with medications. Medications kill the mites and also their eggs. The doctors usually recommend treatment for the entire family of the patient because scabies is highly contagious.

How do you get scabies from a dog or cat?

Pets are generally infested with different types of mites. These mites are found more on the skins of pets than humans. Contrary to the popular myth, one cannot get scabies from a dog or a cat. Scabies are called mange when they are found on dogs and is also known as sarcoptic mange.

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When these mites from the skins of pets land on human skin, they fail to survive and cause only a mild itch that does not last very long and heals on its own. Animals are not the source of the spread of scabies in human beings. The human scabies is quite worse when compared to the mange on feline pets or dogs. They need to be treated properly.

How do you get scabies in the first place?

Someone can get scabies due to any of the below mentioned ways:

  1. Close contact with a person infected by scabies even by holding hands or wrists.
  2. A very personal and prolonged contact with a partner affected by scabies.
  3. Sleeping with a person infected with scabies
  4. Sharing the clothing, towels or bedding of a person infected with scabies.
  5. Anyone sitting on a chair or a couch and infected with scabies can pass on the infection to anyone else sitting on the same place within 72 hours.

Scabies in light microscope

What are the symptoms of scabies?

The initial symptoms of scabies do not show until 6 weeks after coming in contact with the scabies mites. These symptoms develop rather quickly in those who have had an episode of scabies attack earlier.

The symptoms are:

  1. Rashes and itching on the different parts of the skin which gets worse during the night. These areas could be the elbows, wrist, nipples, armpits, penis, waist, buttocks and the area between ones fingers and toes.
  2. This scratching gets worse during night and repeated scratching leads to sores which can get further infected.
  3. In some rare cases and in some children, scabies can also affect the skin on the head, neck, faces and hands.
  4. The rash has different forms and can look like bumps under the skin, pimples, tiny bites or hives.
  5. Sometimes, the burrow tracks made by the mites can also be seen on the skin as tiny raised lines.

Close up of an elderly man’s inner forearm arm severely infested with Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei)

Is scabies contagious?

This highly contagious skin infection can spread in the following ways:

  1. Prolonged and close personal contact with a person infected with scabies such as holding hands.
  2. Sexual contact with an infected person.
  3. Sharing clothes, towels and bedding with someone who is infected with scabies.
  4. Through schools, rehab centers, hobby centers, gyms, nursing homes and prisons.

How is scabies diagnosed?

A physician can diagnose scabies by inspecting the affected area of the skin and by performing a physical exam. In some cases, the doctor might want to be sure of the mite by trying to remove the mite with a needle. A scraped sample of the skin will be examined under a microscope to confirm presence of scabies eggs and mites.

Close up of an elderly man’s upper arm infested with Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei)

How is scabies treated?

This infection can be effectively treated by ointments, lotions and antibiotics. Oral medications are also available to get rid of the scabies mites. The local application medication is best applied at night as the mites are most active during nighttime. A lotion may be prescribed to apply all over the body to prevent spreading of the disease by one’s own hands.

The common medications prescribed to treat scabies are:

  • 25% benzyl benzoate lotion
  • 5% permethrin cream
  • 10% crotamiton cream
  • 10% sulfur ointment
  • 1% lindane lotion
  • Antihistamines such as Benadryl or pramoxine lotion to control itching.
  • Antibiotics to kill other skin infections developed as a result of continuous itching.
  • Some steroid based creams to cure the swelling.
  • In severe cases, an oral tablet of ivermectin is also prescribed to patients.

The symptoms take about a weeks’ time to lessen. It takes about 4 weeks to completely heal. Your doctor will remind you that a ‘post-scabies itch’ will be prevalent for a months’ time after the apparent healing of the infection. If the symptoms persist after 4 weeks of treatment also, then one must consult the doctor again.

How do you get rid of scabies?

The best way to get rid of scabies is to avoid direct and skin-to-skin contact with the person infected with scabies. Avoid sharing bedding, clothing and towels with other people and always prefer to use washed or personal clothes. Anyone who is found to be constantly itching his body should be advised to seek medical help and one should stay away from such people until their itching is cured. Always wash hands properly and especially the nails after itching to avoid spread of the infection.

Scabies (Sarcoptes scabies)

These mites can thrive up to 72 hours even after falling from the human body and spread on others. To prevent re-infestation, one should wash the infected clothes, bedding, pillows and towels with hot water. Un-washable items should be vacuumed or kept in direct sunlight. Bleach and water is also an effective remedy to clean surfaces which might be infected.

How do you get rid of scabies with home treatment?

There are various home remedies for the effective treatment of scabies:

  1. Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin which lessens the pain associated with scabies when applied on the skin. It also relieves itching as it desensitizes the neurons on the skin. Some feel that applying cayenne pepper paste on the skin will kill the mites.
  2. Tiger Balm: Tiger balm is used as a local application cream to reduce burning and inflammation on the skin and to relieve one from muscle pain and aches. It works as an analgesic due to its clove oil and camphor ingredients. Though it does not kill the mites, it does provide relief against the pain while the antibiotics are working their way to kill the mites.
  3. Anise Seed Oil: The oil extracted from anise seeds has insecticidal activities. It is an effective treatment against head lice and scabies and can be used topically.
  4. Neem Oil: This is very effective in killing the mites and also restricts their growth ability and the ability to breed. It numbs the pain, relieves itching and does not cause any adverse effects. Neem oil when used with turmeric effectively cured scabies in 814 cases in India within 3 to 15 days.
  5. Clove Oil: Clove oil works as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial cure for rashes and blisters caused by scabies. It proves highly toxic for the scabies mites and kills them within an hour of application. A compound called eugenol found in clove oil has higher levels of toxicity when compared to benzyl benzoate.
  6. RoseMary Oil: This oil has the potential power of stopping the infestation of the mites. It also decreases pain and prevents other infections from developing. It has a significant anti-microbial property.
  7. Tea Tree Oil: This oil contains terpenoids which is quite effective in fighting the scabies mites. The terpenoids are anti-microbial ingredients which cure the skin of scabies from top and beneath. Tea tree oil may also be used as a therapeutic option in the future as the scabies mites have started showing drug resistance against permethrin and ivermectin in some cases.
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The future control of scabies in certain places or in severe cases might pose a threat in future due to the new drug resistance of the scabies mites.

What is crusted or Norwegian Scabies?

People suffering from HIV or aids or any other condition which causes a compromised immune system develop Norwegian Scabies also known as crusted scabies. It also occurs in aged people or those with Down syndrome. Scabies mites are found in large numbers in these people and are extremely contagious.

Though it affects any area of the body, it is mostly found on the scalp, feet and hands. The scales appear warty with fissures and crusts. The lesions develop an unpleasant odor. Their nails also become discolored and thick. Such patients may or may not have itching symptoms. Oral treatments done on prolonged and regular basis might help patients suffering from Norwegian Scabies.

Why do adults get ear infections?

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Ear infections are not as common in adults as they are in children, although they can be more serious.

The symptoms of ear infections in adults should be closely monitored and diagnosed by a doctor to avoid any complications.

Certain situations and actions put some people more at risk for ear infections than others. However, there are several useful steps that can be taken towards prevention and treatment. Learn more about them in this article.

Share on Pinterest Symptoms of an ear infection may include hearing changes, dizziness, and pain.

The ear is a complicated part of the body, made up of several different chambers. Ear infections can strike in any one of these chambers and cause various symptoms.

The three main parts of the ear are known as the inner, middle, and outer ear.

Infections are most common in the middle ear and outer ear. Inner ear infections are less frequent and sometimes a sign of another underlying condition.

Symptoms of ear infections in adults vary depending on location and can include:

  • inflammation and pain
  • tenderness to the touch
  • hearing changes
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • fever
  • headache
  • swelling of the ear

Discharge coming from the ear is a sign of a more serious issue and should be diagnosed by a doctor immediately.

Middle ear infections

The middle ear is the area directly behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections are typically caused when bacteria or viruses from the mouth, eyes, and nasal passages get trapped behind the eardrum. The result is pain and a feeling of plugged ears.

Some people may have trouble hearing, as an inflamed eardrum is not as sensitive to sound as it needs to be. There is also a buildup of fluid or pus behind the eardrum, which can make hearing more difficult. It may feel as if the affected ear is underwater.

If the eardrum tears or bursts due to the build of pressure from the infection, fluid may drain from the ear.

A fever and general tiredness can also accompany a middle ear infection.

Outer ear infections

The outer ear extends from the ear canal on the outside of the eardrum to the outer opening of the ear itself.

Outer ear infections can start with an itchy rash on the outside of the ear. The warm, dark ear canal is the perfect place for germs to spread to, and an outer ear infection may be the result.

Outer ear infections can also result from irritation or injury to the ear canal from foreign objects, such as cotton swabs or fingernails.

Common symptoms include an ear or ear canal that is painful, swollen, and tender to the touch. The skin may become red and warm until the infection goes away.

Ear infections in adults are typically caused by germs, such as viruses, a fungus, or bacteria. The way a person becomes infected will often determine the kind of infection they get.

People with weakened immune systems or inflammation in the structures of the ear may be more prone to ear infections than others. Diabetes is another risk factor that can make someone more likely to have ear infections.

People with chronic skin conditions, including eczema or psoriasis, may be prone to outer ear infections, as well.

Middle ear infections

The common cold, flu, and allergies can lead to middle ear infections. Other upper respiratory problems, such as sinus or throat infections, can lead to middle ear infections, as the bacteria make their way through the connected passageways and into the eustachian tubes.

The eustachian tubes connect from the ear to the nose and throat and are responsible for controlling the pressure in the ear. Their position makes them easy targets for germs.

Infected eustachian tubes can swell and prevent proper drainage, which works toward the symptoms of middle ear infections.

People who smoke or are around smoke may also be more likely to get middle ear infections.

Outer ear infections

One common outer ear infection is known as swimmer’s ear. People who spend a lot of time in water may be more at risk of developing this type of outer ear infection.

Water that sits in the ear canal after swimming or bathing creates a perfect place for germs to multiply. For this reason, untreated water may be more likely to cause an outer ear infection.

When to see a doctor

Ear infections can go away on their own in many cases, so a minor earache may not be a worry.

A doctor should typically be seen if symptoms have not improved within 3 days. If new symptoms occur, such as a fever or loss of balance, a doctor should be seen immediately.

Any sign of discharge coming from the ear would also require a visit to the doctor.

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