Am I Catwoman?
March 28, 2008 12:46 AM   Subscribe

My kitten, after being neutered, developed an upper respiratory infection, I took him to the vet, and it turned out he had feline herpes. The feline herpes and human herpes virus strains are different and cats cannot transmit this to humans and vice versa--at least according to all the reading and research I have done. And yet, for the last two weeks when my cat was sick, I have had a nasty case of shingles (yes, I was diagnosed, and it is definitely shingles). So, I'm asking, could these illnesses be related in some way, or is this completely a huge coincidence?

A little more background:
My kitten is an indoor kitten.
I spend most of my time chauffering my kids to and from school and writing from home, so I haven't been around a lot of people, but of course my children could bring something home from school.
My kids, though, have both been vaccinated against chicken pox (if that even means anything--of course, I had chicken pox as a kid).
posted by misha to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Shingles is not usually something you catch from external sources, it's a reactivation of the chicken pox virus that is living in your spine ever since you got chicken pox when you were 4 or whatever. You did not catch it from your cat.

I don't think you gave your cat herpes.
posted by aubilenon at 1:22 AM on March 28, 2008


The fact you have had chicken pox is the clue. Adults who have had chicken pox as children can often have bouts of shingles in adult life, this is because the virus stays in the body even after the chicken pox has resolved. These bouts of shingles often occur in times of stress when your immune system is compromised. However,occasional exposure to chicken pox as an adult can boost your immunity to the varicella (herpes zoster) virus, many adults who had chicken pox as children have never had shingles as adults because of this extra exposure.
posted by Arqa at 1:33 AM on March 28, 2008


but not how you think


Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. If you have had chickenpox, the varicella virus remains in a group of nerves in your central nervous system, but doesn't cause any symptoms. This is called a dormant virus. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, which are connected to the nerves in the body. When the virus becomes active again, it causes the symptoms of shingles. No one is sure why the virus becomes active. However, it seems to be linked to a weakened immune system, such as in people who are ill (such as with cancer or HIV), have had major surgery, or are taking immunosuppressant medications or drugs with cortisone.

It can also be triggered by skin trauma, such as sunburn or injury, and emotional stress. Although shingles is not contagious, someone who hasn't had chickenpox can develop chickenpox if they have contact with fluid from a shingles blister.
posted by kanemano at 3:34 AM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, I can tell you from experience that Feline Herpesvirus will not infect humans, even though it is closely related to Varicella zoster virus. We use the virus in a virology lab I teach because, for among other reasons, it will not infect the students (and if it could, I would know because their aseptic technique is so terrible that several have probably wiped it all over their face by this point in the semester). We've not had any of the students come down with either chickenpox/shingles nor have they shown the signs of an FHV infection.

As for your shingles, it is stress causing reactivation (unless you've been out in the sun more with the warming weather?).
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 6:08 AM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think it's possible both of your inherent infections flared up because of the same cause, like other infection that can be common to you both.
posted by cmiller at 6:46 AM on March 28, 2008

I thin it's worth pointing out that it's pretty common for both cats and humans to have an infection or virus flareup after a physically stressful event like surgery. Your kitties neutering operation probably hit his immune system enough for the (probably already-present) virus to get a hold and he got sick.

I had to put off neutering my female kitten when she was recovering from ringworm because the vet said the operation will trigger a relapse - same deal - and she wasn't spayed yet when I got her because her cage mates had come down with an upper respiratory tract virus immediately after their neutering and the rescuers didn't want mine to catch it too. So actually that's where the blame lies, nothing to do with you or your kids and it's not something you could have predicted ahead of time. I'm kind of surprised your vet didn't mention it, the timing is pretty common.

You did the right thing both by getting him neutered in the first place and taking him to the vet once the infection started and he should recover just fine. Your shingles flare up may even be due to the stress of a sick kitten, meaning they are related just not how you thought.
posted by shelleycat at 2:23 PM on March 28, 2008

Perhaps the kitty virus in the environment, while it can't infect you, did "annoy" your immune system enough to wake up the chicken pox virus?
posted by gjc at 4:17 PM on March 28, 2008

From the link mentioned above, I notice they say most people only get shingles once, if they do. I have known a number of people who got it more than once, although probably all of them were older.
Since no one has mentioned it, they do have a vaccine for that now. I don't know if it's considered helpful after you've had it or not. As a general rule, it's recommended for those over 60, but maybe it makes a difference if you've already proven you can have it earlier. I understand the general concensus is that 60 is where those who have had chicken pox start getting it. I think it's worth asking your doctor about it.
For the benefit of anyone older who passes through, the doctors' offices in our state are shooting everyone before they retire, as they say Medicare is not covering it but insurance will, and it's expensive. Your doctor will know all these things, I just thought I'd offer you some questions you might want to ask.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2008

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