Mum, Chelsea-Ann with daughter and family cat Chesney

A life threatening meningitis infection passed to 3 week old baby by family cat

A mother reveals the horror of a family forced into handling their baby’s then life threatening ordeal. Sparkle Anderson, a baby at only three weeks old, became infected with meningitis. The infection had been passed on by the family cat, Chesney.

Sparkle and cat Chesney

Sparkle and cat Chesney

Now a three year old healthy young girl, who’s since become best friends with the family cat. Sparkle’s mother, Chelsea-Ann Dodd, wishes to raise awareness of the early signs of meningitis and tell her story, and reveal the story which affected their family three years ago.

“It seemed such an unlikely cause,” Miss Dodd said. “The doctors said she was only the 39th person in the world known to picked up that particular strain of meningitis. She was just three weeks old and very vulnerable. It was unreal and very frightening too. Chesney still lives with my mum and there’s no danger to worry about any more from them being in contact. In fact they follow each other around all the time when we visit.”

Chelsea-Ann had taken her daughter to hospital due to the baby’s uncontrollable crying. Sparkle was said to have been extremely hot and bad-tempered.

“It broke my heart to see her hooked up to so many wires,” she said. “When they told me she had meningitis, I felt sick. It didn’t make any sense – Sparkle didn’t have a rash and I hadn’t noticed her shying away from bright lights. She had an extremely rare form – there had been just 39 cases previously, which really took me by surprise. I was told that she could have died within hours if I hadn’t brought her in.”

Subsequent hospital tests traced the source of the infection to the family cat.

Chelsea-Ann said: “I was just really, really surprised when the doctors said she caught it from the cat – I didn’t have a clue it was possible. For the first couple of days we feared the worst because Sparkle was so unwell. About five days later the doctors asked if we had any pets. I said we had a cat. They explained to us that Sparkle’s illness had been caused by a bug carried by bacteria in the cat’s saliva. It took them a while to find out what it was because they had never seen it before. The doctor said that from the swab they had there was a bug that grew and they didn’t know what it was. It turned out it was in cats, dogs, rabbits and pigs – it was in their saliva and really rare.”

Mum, Chelsea-Ann with daughter and family cat Chesney

Mum, Chelsea-Ann with daughter and family cat Chesney

A decision was made to not put Chesney down, but rather to give the family cat to Chelsea-Ann’s mother. Sparkle sees Chesney on a regular basis and the two are closer than ever.

Chelsea-Ann has said: “I used to worry about Sparkle at first and didn’t let her near any animals for more than a year. But it was not Chesney’s fault – he didn’t mean to do it. I’d had him since he was a kitten – he was like my first baby and I couldn’t have put him down. We asked the doctors if we should get rid of the cat and they said it wasn’t really necessary. Now Sparkle is more immune to it than us because she has all the antibodies.”

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