Cat scratch disease is considered as a bacterial infection that is caused by bacteria called as Bartonella henselae. The transmission of these microorganisms start once an individual is bitten or scratched by a cat or comes in contact with its saliva. Even though it has not yet been proven, fleas can also carry the bacteria and pass it on to the cats. Once the cat is infected with the bacteria, it can settle on its saliva for months.
Kittens that are less than a year old are prone to carry the bacteria and transmit it to humans. Individuals who acquired cat scratch disease can experience mild to severe manifestations of the symptoms. Take note that the severity chiefly depends on the immune system of the individual. Those who are healthy experience the milder symptoms while those with a weakened immune system can suffer from the severe symptoms. If an individual sustains a cat bite or scratch, appropriate first aid care must be provided right away.
Steps in identifying the symptoms of cat scratch disease
- Check the skin for any unusual sore. A blister or bump called as an inoculation lesion can develop at the area that was scratched or bitten. This usually manifests 3-10 days after the cat bit, licked or scratched the area. The lesion is not painful and often located on the hands or arms.
- Carefully check the surfaces close to the blister for swollen lymph nodes. In a span of two weeks after the bacteria enters the body, the lymph nodes will swell and appear close to the site of the infection. If the affected area is the arm, the lymph nodes in the armpits will become swollen and tender. Take note that the lymph nodes can swell up to ½ inch to 2 inches in diameter while the surrounding skin becomes red and warm to the touch. In some cases, the swollen lymph nodes can drain pus.
- Check the temperature of the individual. A low grade fever less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit typically develops among those who acquire cat scratch disease. The fever can be accompanied by chills, nausea and vomiting.
- Watch for other symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, sick feeling and discomfort are usually experienced by individuals who have the condition. In some, poor appetite is present and then followed by weight loss. In rare cases, the individual can develop serious complications such as convulsions, inflammation in the retina of the eyes and even inflammation of the brain. On the other hand, these complications are likely to occur among individuals who have a very weak immune system.
Important considerations to bear in mind
If any of the symptoms of cat scratch disease manifest, it is important to consult a doctor right away. The easiest way to prevent the condition is to avoid provoking cats or petting stray cats.
When playing with your cat, try not to play rough in order to avoid being scratched or bitten. In case the individual sustains a bite or scratch, it is important to wash the area under running water and soap immediately. Do not forget to wash hands after petting a cat.