Can Conjunctivitis Be Transmitted From Cats to People?

by Kenya
(New Kensington, PA, USA)


Can humans contract conjunctivitis, herpes virus, or chlamydia, from cats?

Hi, Kenya,

Chlamydial conjunctivitis can be, but is very rarely, transmitted from cats to people. The chlamydophila organism that causes conjunctivitis in cats is highly adapted to felines, so the risk of transmission to humans is very low.

Even though contracting conjunctivitis from a cat with the condition is very rare, because it is possible, taking some precautions makes sense. If you are around a cat with conjunctivitis, it makes sense to wash your hands well after touching or treating the area around the eyes.

Other than taking that precaution, it is of little concern. I have handled thousands of cats with conjunctivitis and have never had it. My technicians, likewise, never get conjunctivitis and neither have my clients over the last 20 years.

Feline herpes virus, however, is not a zoonotic disease. While both cats and people have several different forms of herpes virus, each with different symptoms, each form is adapted to the species that it originates in. You cannot contract herpes virus cold sores or genital herpes from contact with a cat with feline herpes virus, nor can your cat contract a herpes virus from a human having a herpes outbreak.

Of course, it always makes good sense when you have any type of illness to tell your physician about any animals you live with or have been around. Very rarely, it may prove to be helpful diagnostically and with treatment.

Thank you for writing,
Dr. Neely

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