Woman Says She Went Blind In One Eye After Her Cat Licked Her

06/01/2015 11:16 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

An Omaha, Nebraska, woman said she woke up Thanksgiving morning to discover she had gone blind in one eye.

"I woke up one day and I couldn’t see out of my left eye," Janese Walters told WTOL in a story broadcast Thursday. "I looked in the mirror and it looked like I had pink eye or something."

Walters said her medical case baffled doctors for a month until she mentioned she had a cat, which had recently licked her. Somehow the cat's saliva had gotten into her eye. She said that's when she was diagnosed with cat-scratch disease.

The Centers for Disease Control notes that about 40 percent of cats will carry B. henselae, the bacterium that causes the disease, within their lifetimes. The disease usually takes hold when an infected cat scratches or bites a person, or licks an open wound.

"The infected area may appear swollen and red with round, raised lesions and can have pus," the CDC says. A person can also develop a fever (like the Ted Nugent song) or a headache.

Though it's rare, cat-scratch disease can cause "serious complications" in the brain, eyes, heart or other internal organs. That usually happens to young children or those with weakened immune systems.

Walters said doctors don't believe she'll ever be able to see out of her left eye again. She said she hopes others will learn from her experience.

The CDC recommends that people wash their hands after they play with their pets and clean wounds from cats immediately. Pet owners are also advised to avoid rough play with cats that would cause the felines to bite or scratch.

The story has been updated to reflect when Walters went blind and how the eye became infected.

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