Quite a while ago, a song by the name of “Cat Scratch Fever” became a hit
off of Ted Nugent’s third album, also called Cat Scratch Fever. Oddly, the simple assumption is that it
was just a catchy tune about dancing or some such, but there is in fact a disease called cat scratch
fever, or more commonly known as cat scratch disease. How do you get it and what should you do to avoid it
or treat it? We’ll, let’s read on and find out.
It isn’t really hard to imagine how one gets cat scratch disease. You take one part cat, one part scratch, and
one part failure to disinfect the wound. The disease itself is actually a bacterium called Bartonella, which is
found very commonly on the claws of cats for one reason or another. Getting scratched is a sure way to come in
contact with the bacterium, ultimately leading to the illness in around one to two weeks, usually in children
due to them being children and not usually having immune systems as strong as adults.
Why cats seem to be the natural factory for the disease is somewhat a mystery but the transmission isn’t just
as simple as getting scratched and then poof, sick. Fleas are involved much of the time as the bacterium is
found in cat blood, most notably in the blood of kittens. When fleas suck their blood, they can then transfer
the illness to other hosts very easily by biting more people, or they can simply go about their business on the
cat, eventually leading to their fecal matter getting on the cat’s claws and teeth from simple scratching and
grooming times. Then all it takes is one good scratch and that’s that, you’re infected.
The initial symptom of cat scratch disease is a condition known as regional lymphadenopathy, which just means
that the lymph nodes in the general region of the infection become tender and swollen. You may also see a
papule right around the scratch, but otherwise you can expect any combination of symptoms like headaches,
backaches, abdominal pain, chills, or the titular fever from the song, album, and colloquial name of the
disease. While it doesn’t seem like too horrible a disease, it can spread to other areas of your body and
affect things like your ears, your eyes, your skin, your throat, your spleen, or even your brain, though it’s
rare in all those cases.
The best way to prevent the illness altogether is to just make sure to scrub out any cat scratch wound with
soap and warm water, then put on antibiotic, antiseptic cream like Neosporin before covering it up with a
bandage. However, once contracted, treatment is still fairly easy just by letting it take its course, which
clears up on its own in most cases. Some people still have problems beyond, but again, those are very rare.
The lesson to take away from all this is that it’s important to clean cuts and scratches as soon as possible,
otherwise you could be dealing with a real nuisance in the form of a bothersome illness. Best to just go wash
up and get a band-aid on there than have a headache and a fever for a week, right?
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