Dear Dr. Fox: Two years ago I started having short episodes of double vision, numbness on the right side of my face, diminished taste sensation and gait abnormality. For about a week, I had to walk with assistance and could not drive. My primary-care doctor diagnosed me with central origin vertigo and ordered an MRA (to check blood flow to the brain) and an MRI of the brain. The brain showed some spots. I was then referred to a neurologist, who did a lumbar puncture. This confirmed a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

The diagnosis was devastating, even though I had no outward signs of the disease. I started taking the oral medication Tecfidera. As time passed, I developed a severe anxiety disorder, and I had obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I had a lot of other psych symptoms that I somehow managed to keep under control. I developed fears of everyday things, such as being afraid to make a pitcher of iced tea, take a shower or do the dishes; if you asked me why I was afraid, I couldn’t tell you. I had turned into a person my husband didn’t recognize.

More symptoms started snowballing as time went on.

Having overcome Lyme disease about 10 years prior, I researched the various diseases and considered that I was infected with Bartonella, also known as cat-scratch fever. When I started reading about it, everything hit home with me.


I made an appointment with a vector-borne disease specialist and was tested for Bartonella, cat-scratch fever. The abnormalities in my spinal fluid, brain spots and constant inflammation are most likely caused by the infection.

My doctor and I discussed how I got infected. I do own a cat, and he has bitten and scratched me innocently during play. I recall one occasion when I got a deep bite on the thin skin on the back of my hand, so I figure that these bacteria had almost three years to multiply in my central nervous system. Oh, and it’s not just from cats. It can be contracted from a dog or any animal, plus many insects.

I will be on three different antibiotics daily for several months. Some of the psych and neuro symptoms have resolved, but I still have a way to go. My case may be atypical, but all possibilities have to be considered when it comes to these vector-borne diseases. — C.C., Cumberland, Maryland

Dear C.C.: I’m sure that many readers will sympathize with you and appreciate your call for greater vigilance concerning this bacterial disease transmissible from cats and other animals to humans. Your experience is a warning to all cat owners not to let their cats roam free because they may pick up fleas that have fed on infected cats.

United Feature Syndicate

Write to Dr. Fox c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.