Cat scratch fever refers to a popular term for car scratch disease that is an infection caused by the bacterium known as Bartonella henselae. Because this bacterium is carried by cats, the condition is spread via bites, scratches, fur, and saliva of cats. It has been found that nearly 40% of cats have these bacteria due to which the disease can occur at some point in life of cat owners. According to medical experts, kittens are more likely to carry these bacteria than adult cats.
For the first time, Dr. Robert Debre in 1950 found cat as the carrier of the cat scratch disease. For no specific reason, this condition is more likely to take place during the winter and fall as compared to summer. In the United States of America alone, around 20,000 cases are identified every year of which the majority is of children because they tend to play more with stray or growing cats than the fully grown-up ones.
Most cases are self-healing, meaning that the condition resolves on its own without going through any treatment within a few weeks. However, if this healing is not spontaneous or there is an infection, it becomes vital to seek instant medical care. Well, for this, you need to know about the possible signs and symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever
The bacterial infection caused by the disease typically results in swelling of lymph nodes. However, the first symptom that is commonly noticed in the infected people within 10 days after infection is a small bump or blister appearing at the site of scratch or bite. The swollen lymph nodes or fever usually tend to surface after a couple of weeks, of which the swelling can take much time to heal. In those with a normal immune system, the ailment does not take a serious or complicated form. Some more common signs and symptoms that may follow are:
• Enlarged spleen or lymph nodes
• Sore throat
• General ill feeling
• Loss of appetite
• Unexpected weight loss
Although the disease usually heals on its own, there are chances for complications to occur. In fact, in a few cases, the ailment can be life threatening due to which instant medical care becomes unavoidable or non-deferrable. The life-threatening signs are fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, change in the level of consciousness such as unresponsiveness or passing out, seizure, and a sudden mental or behavioral change such as delirium, confusion, delusion, and lethargy.
Transmission of Disease
The kittens tend to carry the bacteria in their blood through which they unintentionally transmit the cat scratch disease. However, the outcomes of trials and studies have showed that fleas act as a carrier for transmitting Bartonella henselae bacterium to cats. Further, it was also found that the viable forms of this bacterium are excreted in the feces of the cat flea called Ctenocephalidess Felis. According to some more studies, it was found that cats could be infected with these bacteria via intradermal inoculation possessing flea feces rich in these worms. As a result, this inoculation is alleged as the probable means of transmission of bacteria from cats to humans via a contaminated scratch or wound. However, there is no study that proves that the fleas can transmit the ailment directly to the humans.
Although the bacteria residing in the saliva infect humans, they do not harm the cats or kittens in any way. According to the experts, all cats tend to have these bacteria at least once in their lifetime. A great sigh of relief is that the cat scratch disease is a non-contagious condition, and that it is only transmitted by kittens and cats when their bacteria-ingested saliva meets the eye or broken skin. Further, a single spell of the cat scratch disease tends to make people immune to the condition for the remaining part of their life.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to diagnose the condition, the medical expert typically tries to locate the site that was exposed to a kitten or cat. A scratch, bite, or swollen lymph nodes aid the expert in detecting the disease. Nevertheless, the experts may go for laboratory tests to identify the condition in some cases. The tests are:
• Skin tests as well as cultures to rule out another condition responsible for the swelling
• Regular blood tests and microscopic examination of the swollen node.
A positive blood test result or a positive response to a skin test points towards cat scratch fever. The medical expert then prescribes an antibiotic therapy for treating the serious infection. Antibiotic medications prescribed for treating the cat scratch fever are Azithromycin (Zithromax) especially during pregnancy, Rifampin (Rifadin), and Doxycycline (Vibramycin). If the swollen lymph nodes have become painful or big, the medical expert will then use a syringe for removing the fluid.
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