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Cat scratch disease

Here kitty, kitty...

“Fear me.. if you dare!”- Puss 

Nah. How can that short, orange fur ball with knee-high boots, feathered hat, and big, green saucer-like eyes strike fear in the hearts of men? Sure, betray him or threaten his breakfast and Puss will pounce with his guitar or at worst, his sword. Challenge his resolve and he’ll leave a trail of cuts and bruises.

Even after 4 movies, there’s no evidence of cat scratch disease among any of his targets: His scratches have never induced a febrile illness; None of his victims have ever been found with red, inflamed bumpy skin lesions; No one who’s ever crossed Puss has ever complained of tender, 1 to 5 centimeter lymph nodes; Foolish foes who’ve fallen under the spell of those warmly dark, liquid pupils have never acquired conjunctival infection; After a brawl, his enemies may stumble about confused, with funny gaits, but those are all symptoms of a good thrashing by Puss, not from neurological complications of cat scratch disease; His opponents rub their tender muscles and joints after battle in a reflexive attempt to assuage trauma-inflicted pain, rather than infection-inflicted inflammation; There’s little evidence of Puss directly or indirectly killing his opponent- If he had, and if DreamWorks would release the body for autopsy, examination of the liver and spleen would fail to find Bartonella henselae, the bacteria transmitted by cats and responsible for cat scratch disease. 

In short, Puss is a cute, clean cat.

Nevertheless, Puss’s threat of bodily harm feeds on the psyche of those who’ve had not-so-nice encounters with kitties. Cats are the main reservoirs for Bartonella henselae. Most cats infected with the bacteria don’t show clinical signs of infection but we can get sick from a scratch, bite, or even contact with an infected cat’s saliva through broken skin. Puss just happens to be a non-infected cat. But in one study of 205 cats in northern California, B. henselae was found in 56 percent of cats less than one year of age.

Fortunately, for most people with intact immune systems, cat scratch disease typically causes a mild illness. There is always the chance, however, that the infection may spread throughout the body. In patients with disseminated disease, recovery may take months to a year, and may be fatal depending on the organ system involved. People with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness. To prevent the progression to severe disease, a course of antibiotics should be used in addition to anti-inflammatory medications, fever-relievers, and warm compresses to the inoculation site.

Puss might have paws that are more theatrical than threatening, but not all cat scratches are harmless. Take the proper precautions, treat early if infected, and there should be nothing to be feared.


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