One of the joys of bringing home a new kitten or a puppy is all the snuggling and cuddling you get to do with your little bundle of furry joy. The last thing on our minds is that somehow either of these little gifts of nature might possibly make us sick, but according to a new study confirmed by the CDCP kitten cuddling could be opening you and your family up to cat-scratch disease. If you’re not sure what that is or you thought it was made up or just a reference in an old Ted Nugent song, it’s time to bring you up to date. Cat-scratch disease is a mild ailment that can have serious complications and potentially become fatal if left untreated. The good news is that it’s preventable.
The condition, sometimes referred to as cat scratch fever, has been around forever, so don’t freak out thinking it’s something new to be aware of. Regardless of its place in history, you should acquaint yourself with the realities of it if you’re a cat owner or considering taking on the role of one anytime soon. It’s especially important if you have kids and are thinking of getting a kitten. The feline disease is actually spreadable with both cats and kittens, but the report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases has found that the incidence of cat-scratch disease (CSD) is actually higher in the southern United States and in households with children.
Testing for Cat-Scratch Disease
Originally recognized as a real and not imaginary ailment back in 1950, not a lot of studies have centered round it until recently. In fact, identification of the etiologic agent involved in the condition and the development of subsequent diagnostic testing did not occur until around the mid-1980s. It’s thought the epidemiology of CSD may have possibly changed in the last few decades due to improved diagnostic tests for the disease and other conditions that mimic it. Beyond patient exposure and history, diagnostic tests such as serology, PCR and culture have been found to be “useful for confirming what is considered typical CSD or for diagnosing atypical CSD.”
Signs & Symptoms of Cat-Scratch Disease
The predominant clinical feature of CSD is lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) near the site of a cat scratch or bite. In many patients, a papule (small, raised bump on the skin that can be tender to the touch) develops at the initial wound site before onset of lymphadenopathy. Some patients with the bartonella henselae (bacteria cats can be infected with) infection experience more serious presentations, such as neuroretinitis, Parinaud oculoglandular syndrome, osteomyelitis, encephalitis, or endocarditis. The symptoms of cat-scratch disease also include fever, fatigue, discomfort and pain in the joints like knees, wrists, ankles and elbows. Those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for the illness.
Prevention & Disease Control
To prevent transmission of this feline bacterial infection, cat owners or those who come into contact with them should wash their hands after handling them. Besides being scratched or bit, the disease can also be spread through saliva. That means if your cat is licking you and you have a cut or open wound there is the potential for infection. If their saliva comes into contact with your hands and you touch or rub your eyes, you can contract it that way, too. The best way to avoid the entire problem is to take your cat or cats to the vet regularly for check ups, vaccines and pest control (fleas may play a role) to ensure their health and that of your own, which is something you're hopefully doing anyway. If you ever become ill after contact with a cat, contact your physician immediately in order to avoid more serious consequences.