I have Cat Scratch Disease and I’m not even kitten

I didn’t see this coming – apparently, I have a lymph node infection traced to cat scratch disease. Yep, what we often call cat scratch fever.  I have Ted Nugent disease and this does not make me happy.

It started for me on Monday when I realized I had a headache that wouldn’t quit and what I thought might be a cold or related illness. I woke up Tuesday and felt terrible, sure that I had a massive ear infection because my ear hurt. A lot. I noticed my neck lymph glands were swollen, but figured that was part of whatever infection was making my ears hurt.

I felt terrible Tuesday night, but hoped the anti-inflammatory, fluid, rest combo would help me enough to avoid the doctor’s office. Wednesday was a little better, but eventually I gave in and drove myself to Med Express. When the doctor told me that my ears were fine if a little swollen due to the lymphatic infection, I almost passed out. Yinz who know what ear aches are like know my bewilderment. How could my ear be fine – it hurt like a motherfucker.

The doctor looked at my arms and legs (I was running a chronic low grade temp so dressed loosely) and asked me if I had cats. I simply said yes and she said “You likely have Cat Scratch Disease” before I could even tell her how many cats or anything.

I was sure it was a practical joke – the foster cat lady gets this diagnosis! Ha. Not so much. I was on my way home with a fistful of handouts and a script for a zpack. I can’t even remember the last time I took a zpack. She told me I might not feel myself for up to two weeks. Two weeks?

So what is cat scratch disease? Here’s the scoop.

Cat scratch disease (CSD) is an illness caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. Almost half of all cats carry the infection at some point. The infection does not make cats sick. However, the scratch or bite of an infected cat can cause symptoms in people. A doctor can make an accurate diagnosis by performing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) blood test to see if the B. henselae bacteria are present in your body.  The Bartonella henselae immunofluorescence assay (IFA) blood test is an accurate way to detect the infection caused by these bacteria.

Ahem. So when I shared this diagnosis on local cat people pages, I was genuinely shocked that it wasn’t more well known and that multiple folks shared that they had ongoing symptoms including lymph node issues. Then I realized that most of the folks I’m describing are women and that women presenting with inflammatory anything tend to be dismissed.

So this does not mean that one of our cats is going to transmit the disease to anyone else. Typically, good hand washing and careful wound washing with antibacterial soap takes care of it. Of course we are both covered in cat scratches after raising five kittens since May. Big scratches, small ones, long surface scratches, the occasional puncture wound. And I can’t forget that our 19 year old cat chomped down on my index finger while I was trying to pill him. Any mix of my skin being torn and the cats saliva adds to the fun.

I will be seeing my PCP next week, but I feel better enough to believe its all going to be fine. Not great, but better. The inflammation has gone down a bit, but it hurts to turn my neck or when I lay down. The ony position that doesn’t hurt is sitting up straight with a pillow behind my back. Finding the right pillow support for my neck is challenging. But no more little fevers, etc. And knowing that my ear isn’t going to explode in a frothy fury of gross infection and indignant air pressure helps.

So I’m moping around a bit, trying to find just the right angle for my neck to relieve the strain. I’ve tried to tell Laura that Starbucks is part of the recommended treatment, too.




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