“You know you got it when you’re going insane,” the lyric of Cat Scratch Disease hints that a person who has been scratched by a cat is going insane, showing people’s concern for both the physical and mental health problems caused by cat-scratch disease (CSD).
What is cat-scratch disease (CSD)?
Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial infection transmitted by cats, which is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella. Cats become infected with Bartonella through flea bites or fights with other infected cats or feline blood transfusions.
When an infected cat licks a wound of a person, or bites or scratches a person’s skin forcefully to destroy the skin surface, the disease spreads. About three to fourteen days after the skin breaks, a mild infection may appear at the scratched or bite site. The infected area may become swollen and red, with rounded lesions, and possibly pus.
People with CSD may also get fever, headaches, loss of appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the lymph nodes near the patients’ initial scratch or bite will swell, and become tender or painful.
Mental health symptoms associated with cat scratch disease
Scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University studied thirty-three people suffering from neuropsychiatric symptoms – sleep disorders, mental confusion, rage, anxiety, depression, headache, etc. Twenty-nine of them were found to have Bartonella infections. Twenty-four of the 29 Bartonella-positive participants (83%) reported the appearance of skin lesions during their illness.
When should you call a doctor?
Most cases do not need any special treatment, but some cases still require a doctor. Call a doctor if you or your child has been scratched or bitten by a cat and experiences these symptoms:
(1) the wound does not seem to be healing
(2) redness of the skin around the wound keeps expanding
(3) you or your child develops a fever that lasts for a few days after the scratch or bite
If you or your child has already been diagnosed with cat scratch disease, and has a high fever, lots of pain in lymph nodes, seems very sick, or develops new symptoms, you need to call your doctor.
The best way to prevent you and your family from cat-scratch disease is to avoid stray or unfamiliar cats to reduce exposure to sources of the bacteria. Or at least, have your family members wash their hands after handling or playing with a cat.