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Cat-Scratch Fever

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GENERAL INFORMATION

DESCRIPTION
Cat-scratch fever is a mild infectious disease of unknown cause resulting from a scratch by a cat. It is not contagious from person to person. More than one family member can be infected at one time. The skin and lymph glands are involved.

Appropriate health care includes:

  • Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Physician’s monitoring of general condition and medications.
  • Surgery to drain the lymph gland, if it contains pus.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • A lump, with or without pus or fluid, which starts on the scratched skin 1 to 2 weeks after the cat scratch.
  • Swollen lymph glands near the affected area.
  • Low fever of 99F to 101F (37.2C to 38.3C).
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.

CAUSES
Infection from germs–probably viral – carried on cat’s claws. The infection spreads to lymph glands near the scratch by way of lymphatic vessels.

RISK FACTORS
Owning or handling cats.

PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE

  • Have pet cats declawed by the veterinarian.
  • Teach your child to respect animals and not provoke them.
  • Urge your child not to pick up strange cats.

BASIC INFORMATION

MEDICAL TESTS

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor. Tell your doctor of any cat scratches in the previous 2 weeks.
  • Laboratory skin test to confirm the diagnosis.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS
Eye inflammation (rare).

PROBABLE OUTCOME
Spontaneous recovery within 3 weeks.

TREATMENT

HOME CARE
It is not necessary to isolate the ill child because the disease is not transmitted from person to person.
It should not be necessary to destroy the cat. Consult your veterinarian.

MEDICATION
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for your child, although their effectiveness is not proven.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.

ACTIVITY
The child should rest in bed until fever subsides and energy returns, then resume normal activities gradually.

DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.

OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?
When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF

  • Your child has symptoms of cat-scratch fever.
  • A swollen lymph gland becomes painful and red. This may indicate that a doctor should open and drain the infected gland.

From the Complete Guide to Pediatric Symptoms, Illness & Medications by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1989 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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