The Feline-Ashe are a rare yet highly dangerous parasitical organism that is found primarily in the Middle East & Africa. The odd outbreak is found in more southerly regions of Europe too. A rare few are born from this where one adult is affected by the parasite.
Transmission & Vectors
Bodily fluids, with initial infection originating in diseased carrion being ate by a cat. From there, the cat spreads the parasite through saliva, blood, urine, or faeces to other cats, or humans. Eating a cats flesh can also transmit it if handled / cooked incorrectly. It usually becomes infectious after 3 to 21 days.
The parasite is an ant-like creature. It has a long larval stage for the workers, and when a queen appears in a host, it appears relatively quickly. In every case, the larval stage is small enough to enter the bloodstream in the digestive system. It makes its way through the stomach by coating it's body in a hardened casing that the stomach acid breaks down when leaving here. When there it can make the victim feel nauseated, and if only one of these parasites makes it through it will make it's way to the medulla oblonga (basically the 'reptilian' part of the brain) and use it's mandibles to clasp on. There it grows neurons onto the structure, and uses the victim for food, transport, and to help the closest queen. The queen carries out the same procedure and uses the host's pheromones to attract & dominate the others. Some also latch onto the nerves of the abdomen too if they are present.
The victim has an urge to feed, primarily on highly calorific foodstuffs, with a large amount of protein too. They generally don't look after themselves appearing dirty & sweaty, and develop a gray complexion. Most start to loose some weight, and most who can be communicated with report feeling as if they are not in control of themselves. Most also feel cold all the time, especially the more north the person is. After a few days, their temperament changes, and they become aggressive, even hostile to others, unless they are also affected. Further down the line, they become almost cut off entirely from outsiders. A few report wanting to mix with others who are unaffected, and 'introduce' them to any 'new friends'. Usually the queen will try to take over a female, and this leads to what looks like boils that constantly expand & contract on the skin. These are eggs of larvae that the others care for. Also, these appear a sickly brown / inflamed red colour, at least the tissue around the regions affected. The person constantly seems to regurgitate & defecate eggs, and seems to end up settling into one spot in a protected area. There their body seems to meld & grow into the surrounding area & any objects nearby.
The only way to successfully treat a patient with this, is to purge their body of the parasites, and to do it early. If not, the only other way is to kill them, and burn the body & torch the region their found in. The safest way for the former is to use healing magic, or to get the victim to drink large doses of purgatives. The traditional method in the Middle East & Africa is to drink/eat large amounts of a concoction favoured by traditional medical persons. This is a mix of prunes, concentrated dried lemons, and a small portion of nightshade. The latter is meant to kill the neurological link between the parasite and the patient.
The patients will start to form up into private groups who start to share a kind of hivemind, using pheromones and basic clicking sounds for communication. A queen eventually appears and starts to organise the group further until there is enough eggs being produced by her. The rest, even in a decrepit state seeks out new victims to bring back and infect. Sometimes they will introduce the eggs to cats to spread it further afield to other settlements. If left unchecked, they can spread exponentially, though the cooler the climate the slower it is. The parasite prefers warmer climes, and preferably tropical. If caught on time they cell can be caught quickly and eliminated. If not, then there is a risk of it remaining in some form or fashion in a region. There is also the minor inconvenience of spreading it, if all infected cats & humans aren't prevented from leaving.
Malnourishment, as well as neurological & psychological damage is regular damage dome by this parasite. Also, if someone is affected by a queen, there is a high risk of damage to their soft tissue, and retention of eggs.
Humans of all ages.
Hosts & Carriers
Most herbivores pick this up in their environment, and ate by cats that pass it to humans.
Many people who know of the parasite regularly drive or kill cats they don't know, especially any who act odd round them.
Cats are carriers an the parasites look to enter them. When the cat encounters a human it will try to bite a person to spread the larvae or eggs to them. If they defecate, there is a greater risk of passing it on to a potential victim if they come in contact with the eggs or larvae. When a persons or persons become infected they will try to spread it to others that they are close to. If they do, they will eventually look to attract others and get them to ingest the eggs / larvae where possible.
Nobody is certain about the first cases of this. What is known is the first flashes of the disease was reported in some of the tribal groups & empires in & around central Africa. Eventually, it travelled up the Nile and also over the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula. Small outbreaks happened centuries ago, and at the same time was accompanied by tales of the Yuan-Ti. Most thought both were linked and a curse by a god or gods of some type. Thankfully there has been no major outbreaks, and it is unlikely at present to be any major epidemics or worse. Since it only affects humans the worst, many enclaves of other species avoided it. Also, many locals in these regions worked out various methods of containment (by purgatives, magic, or extermination mainly).
Most of the general population will look to drive off the infected, or cure them to avoid it spreading.