DID you know that a catâ€™s scratch could make you ill? Cat scratch fever occurs worldwide. A type of bacteria called bartonella henselae, often introduced through a cat scratch, causes it.
The disease is relatively mild, often showing no more than simple flu-like signs and swollen lymph nodes.
Dr John Mukasa, a general practitioner says patients of cat scratch fever have enlarged lymph nodes, fever, headache, sore throat, lack of appetite, weakness and excessive fatigue. About 3-10 days from the time of scratch, small pimple-like swellings occur on the skin, some causing irritation of the skin or the formation of pus.
The enlarged lymph nodes usually develop on the head, neck, or in the armpits two weeks after a scratch and persists for 2-4 months. Others may develop inflamed eyes.
Approximately half of the patients show no signs other than enlargement of lymph nodes.
In a few cases the scratch mark is still visible by the time someone becomes sick, although it disappears after a couple of days without leaving a scar. Most patients however do not report to hospital for treatment due to negligence, says Dr Mukasa.
The mode of transmission of the infective germ is by direct contact following a scratch, bite, or lick from a young cat. Surveys in the United States have showed that about 40% of the cats have the bacteria that cause cat scratch fever, according to the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC).
In Uganda, however, nobody has carried out a similar survey as yet.
Avoiding rough play with cats reduces the risk. Do not let cats lick any wounds that you might have. If a cat scratches or bites you, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with water and soap.
If the scratch or bite wound swells or develops pus or if you develop any of the symptoms mentioned, seek urgent medical help.
Dr Mukasa says the lymph node swellings are relatively mild and in most cases will subside spontaneously within 2-3 months.
The disease is treated by painkillers and removing the pus whenever it forms.
Surgical removal of the nodes may be necessary in selected patients either because of persistent pain or for diagnosis.