Woman contracts orbital cowpox in her eye after scratch from pet cat


A woman has contracted a rare zoonotic disease after being scratched in the eye by her cat.

The unnamed 28-year-old, from the UK, experienced redness, irritation, and discharge in her right eye for five days before presenting to a hospital emergency department in London.

It was there that doctors reported her eye had periocular swelling, conjunctival injection, chemosis and purulent discharge, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

She revealed to those tending to her condition that two weeks before the onset of her symptoms, her pet cat had developed lesions on its paws and head.

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Polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) testing of lesions from the cat found it had orthopox virus, while a swab of the woman’s eye tested positive for the same.

Genome sequencing then confirmed a diagnosis of cowpox in both the cat and woman.

The woman was treated with a series of drugs including topical moxifloxacin, dexamethasone, and ganciclovir and intravenous ceftriaxone, metronidazole, and acyclovir.

But despite the treatment, further complications arose, and emergency procedures were carried out to decompress the orbit and remove dead tissue, according to the journal entry.

Additional surgery was performed on the woman two months later, with her full vision being restored by a follow-up six months on.

However, doctors noted that she did have some residual drooping of her eye and her eye movements were mildly restricted.

Cowpox is a viral skin infection caused by the cowpox or catpox virus, and while it is similar to the deadly smallpox disease, it is far less severe.


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Kathy Laura

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