Scientists are warning cat owners that cuddling with their kitten may result in a serious illness that could be fatal if not treated properly. In their warning, scientists urge animal owners to stay away from their feline friends and wash their hands often if they do come into contact with a kitten.
Cat-scratch disease, also known as cat-scratch fever, is a well-known illness that is spread by cats and kittens. With modern medicine, it is easy to overlook the possibility of cat-scratch fever being lethal to humans, but studies show that it may be more dangerous now due to our false sense of security against it and an increase in immunodeficiency issues.
Dr. Christina Nelson, according to NPR, is a medical epidemiologist for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that believes cat-scratch fever is hitting people harder than it has in the past.
“The scope and impact of the disease is a little bit larger than we thought,”
Her observations result from the first focused study on cat-scratch fever in over 15 years.
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Although Dr. Nelson warns of the potential danger of cat-scratch fever, she does reassure everyone that it is a completely curable and preventable disease, according to Metro.
“Cat-scratch is preventable. If we can identify the populations at risk and the patterns of disease, we can focus the prevention efforts.”
Many infected individuals do not realize they have cat-scratch fever and do not seek appropriate treatment, resulting in the potential for hospitalization.
Symptoms of cat-scratch fever can be as insignificant as a slight fever. However, when left untreated in an individual that has a compromised immune system, death can occur. Dr. Aaron Glatt of South Nassau Community Hospital in New York claims that individuals with HIV are examples of people that experience symptoms that could result in death.
“Most of the people who get seriously sick from cat-scratch are immunocompromised. The classic example is patients with HIV,”
Although the instances of cat-scratch fever are not on the rise, and they might actually be decreasing, those that are becoming infected seem to be hit harder than in the past. However, Dr. Glatt reports that more and more individuals in the United States are subject to compromised immune systems, a subject of another ongoing study.
According to the CDC, kittens are more apt to carry the bacteria that causes cat-scratch fever. Since kittens are nearly irresistible to cuddle and kiss, scientists are warning individuals to wash their hands after handling the felines.
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Cat-scratch fever is passed between cats and fleas and is caused by the Bartonella henselae bacteria. As fleas defecate on their feline hosts, a cat-lover may find themselves breathing it in, or it can enter the human owner via a cut on his or her hand while petting the kitten. Historically, a cat that scratched the human might pass it on as the flea dirt collects on the cat claws.
It is estimated that there were 12,000 cases of cat-scratch fever between 2005 and 2013. Of those cases, nearly 500 led to hospitalization.
Of the individuals infected, children make up the majority. Children that have not received vaccinations are believed to have a higher potential to receive the condition. However, research has not been conducted to confirm that as of yet.
The most convenient way to keep cat-scratch fever out of your life is to treat your cats for fleas, according to Dr. Nelson.
“Use adequate flea control and keep your cats indoors,”
However, the surefire way to ensure you do not become sick with cat-scratch fever is to simply stay away from cats.
[Featured Image by Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock]