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Cat scratch fever is a rare bacterial infection often caused by a bite or scratch from a cat infected with a common strain of bacteria known as Bartonella henselae. It is also possible to become infected with cat scratch fever if saliva from an infected cat is transmitted into an open wound or the eye.
While it is estimated that cats carry the Bartonella henselae bacteria for 40% of their lives, the majority of cat scratch fever cases are linked to kittens rather than adult cats. While further evidence is needed, there is a suspicion that kittens are more susceptible to carrying fleas which are in themselves carriers of all manner of bacteria chiefly the Bartonella henselae strain.
The common symptoms of cat scratch fever can include:
- A raised bump or small blister at the site of the initial scratch or bite. This indicates a reaction of the immune system to the Bartonella henselae bacteria.
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes either at or near the site of the initial bite or scratch. Again this is a sign that the immune system is reacting and attempting to combat the bacterial infection.
- Mild fever.
- General fatigue, tiredness and malaise.
- Sore throat.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
As cat scratch fever is quite a rare condition, many cases go undiagnosed or indeed misdiagnosed as a simple viral infection. While it is true to suggest that in the main cat scratch sever is a relatively mild condition that will often go away on its own, it can last for a long time and has been known to trigger secondary complications for those with weakened immune systems such as people with HIV and AIDS. If you are concerned about cat scratch fever, or feel that you are displaying many of the typical cat scratch fever symptoms as listed above, seek medical attention.
If you do decide to seek medical attention, your doctor will attempt to diagnose your condition usually with a physical examination and a blood test. In order for your doctor to diagnose you with cat scratch fever, he or she will examine your abdomen to ascertain whether you have an enlarged spleen. They will then most likely conduct an indirect fluorescent antibody blood test, where antibodies that are labelled with dye will attach to any Bartonella henselae antibodies that might be prevalent in your blood sample. In the case of positive test, the dyed antibodies will light up indicating the presence of Bartonella henselae in your body thus indicating a likely diagnosis of cat scratch fever.
Most cases of cats fever do not require any form of medical treatment. However, antibiotics sometimes will be prescribed to individuals with a particularly serious case of cat scratch sever or indeed those who are likely to develop dangerous secondary complications as a result of a compromised immune system.