The IFL science blog reiterated how rare cases like this are among pet owners and advised watching for symptoms of the disease - including loss of appetite, dehydration and pneumonia - to catch it before it becomes serious.
A Missouri man has his cat to thank (or more likely blame) for making him a story in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A graphic photo of the man - with bulbous, angry-red lesions on the right side of his face and neck - appeared on the journal’s website last week.
The unidentified man, 68, caught a rare, infectious disease from his cat called glandular tularemia, the journal said.
His case was reported by St. Louis physicians Laura Marks of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Andrej Spec at Washington University.
The man visited a primary care clinic after suffering two months with painful swelling on his neck and face and a week of fever, the journal reported.
His outdoor cat had died two days before his symptoms began, according to the journal.
Spec said on Twitter the cat was “misdiagnosed with feline leukemia, and the patient was infected while caring for her.”
“Apparently, a veterinarian had diagnosed the man’s cat with feline leukemia without doing any tests and told him to treat his cat with prednisone,” wrote the IFLScience blog.
“Now, as anyone who has had to give a cat medication can imagine, this process undoubtedly involved close contact and maybe even a few bites and scratches – a perfect opportunity for F. tularensis to jump from cat to human.”
The man tested positive for the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which causes tularemia in animals and humans, the journal reported.
People can get infected through tick and deer fly bites, touching infected animals and by drinking contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It “typically attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “The disease mainly affects mammals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares, although it can also infect birds, sheep, and domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and hamsters.”
Domestic cats, the medical journal reported, “can become infected through the consumption of infected prey and can transmit the bacteria to humans.”
The disease is also commonly called “rabbit fever” because hares and rodents are especially susceptible and can die in large numbers if they get it. About 100 to 200 cases of rabbit fever in humans are reported every year in the United States, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
Cases have been reported in all states except Hawaii, according to the CDC, but the disease is most common in south-central United States, the Pacific Northwest and parts of Massachusetts.
In 2016, 109 of 230 cases reported in the country came from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado, according to the CDC.
Most infections in humans, the CDC says, are treated with antibiotics.
The Missouri patient was treated with the anitobiotic doxycycline for four weeks, the journal reported, and the lesions improved within five days and were gone within three weeks.