Janese Walters says she literally went blind overnight.
“I woke up one day, and I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” the Ohio woman told Toledo News Now. “I looked in the mirror, and I thought I had pink eye or something.”
After a full month had passed and her vision still hadn’t returned, both she and her doctors were completely perplexed, until she made a comment about her pet cat.
Walters had contracted cat scratch disease, which is caused by a bacteria that is carried by 40 percent of cats, Toledo News Now reports. It can be transmitted to humans through the cat’s saliva or fur, and although it isn’t harmful to the animals, in humans it can cause everything from liver problems to meningitis. And, as Walters learned, blindness.
“Anything that is exposed to the cat’s mouth, including if you have a little scratch that the cat licks — that’s how you can get it,” Dr. Kris Brickman told the news station.
Unfortunately for Walters, her vision is not expected to return.
“It’s a big handicap,” she told Toledo News Now. “I’m just lucky it didn’t transfer to my other eye.”
Brickman says that although cat scratch disease is a bigger threat to those with weakened immune systems, anyone can get it if they aren’t cautious. He advises pet owners to wash their hands after playing with their cats, to prevent their cats from licking any open wounds or sores, and to try to avoid being bitten by a cat.
Walters says she still owns her cats — and dogs — but she hopes her story can serve as a warning to others.