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Doctors Believe 68-Year-Old's Painful Boils on Neck Originated from His Pet Cat

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Animals can be some of our best friends and our constant companions, but they can also be our worst enemies without even meaning to.

When you think of conditions or diseases that we can catch from domesticated animals, you may think of rabies (Old Yeller hurt us all, in a way). But that’s mostly been eradicated in the states, with the requirement of rabies vaccinations for dogs.



There’s ringworm — not a worm at all, but a fungus that creates circular lesions. And if your dog attracts ticks, well, there’s a whole bunch of fun diseases you can contract from those creepy crawlies.

But according to The New England Journal of Medicine, one older gentleman from Missouri recently discovered that his furry friend had left him with a rather unexpected goodbye present.

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The anonymous 68-year-old man had owned a cat who lived outside. That’s fairly typical: Many cats like being outside and will wreak havoc inside until they are let out. But being outside means they have access to lots of dirty and potentially dangerous things.

This unnamed man’s cat passed away, and two days later, the man started to notice discomfort along his neck. But, as many do, he dealt with the pain himself and did not get it checked out.

Lumps began to appear on his neck and along his jawline. Three of them. Even when they grew large and painful, he still didn’t go to the doctor’s — and he probably didn’t realize at the time that those “lumps” were his lymph nodes.



But it wasn’t the concerning lumps themselves that drove him to seek medical attention, it was when he had a fever that lasted a week the he finally got up and saw a professional. He knew at that point that he had to do something.

He was diagnosed with glandular tularemia, caused by Francisella tularensis, a kind of bacteria that is generally carried by rodents and other small animals.

People who hunt rabbits have to be particularly careful that they don’t catch and eat contaminated animals by checking the animal’s liver for lesions and only hunting during the colder months, when the condition is less prevalent.

Outdoor cat, rodent… it’s not too difficult to put together, and it wasn’t long until the doctors were blaming the cat for its owner’s condition. But, to be fair, there are plenty of ways people can catch the nasty bug.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a couple of other ways people can come into contact with the bacterium, which include being bitten by ticks or deer flies, drinking contaminated water, touching contaminated animals, or inhaling airborne particles.

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One of their suggestions to avoid exposing yourself to the bacterium is to avoid “mowing over dead animals.” Gross, and difficult to be aware of if you live somewhere rural. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of ways you can catch it.

However, one of the doctors who wrote the report revealed a solid link between the cat and the man: The cat had been diagnosed with feline leukemia, but the diagnosis may have been a misdiagnosis, as the vet didn’t do any lab testing to double check. As the man administered medicine to his sick pet, he came into contact with the animal, and contracted the bug himself.

Fortunately, it’s not generally fatal when caught, and this gentleman was on the mend after a round of doxycycline. Whether or not he’ll head to the doctor immediately the next time he has an unusual health experience is another matter.

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