Local News

Cat Scratch Fever Harmful To People With Immune Problems

Posted July 8, 2002

— Cat scratch fever is more than just a song title, it is also a disease. While it is rare, it can cause problems for some people, especially those with immune problems. A tiny scratch from a cat turned into a big problem for one young girl.

Andrea Clendennen has always loved animals. A few years ago, one even saved her life.

"We had a cat who was battling a rattlesnake near some toys she was playing with," said Myra Clendennen, Andrea's mom.

But now, the 11-year-old has a different view about felines.

"Before I used to think kittens were kind of cute. Now I don't even want to look at them," Andrea said.

On Nov. 5, Andrea came in from school, saying her chest hurt. She ran a fever for more than 40 days. A battery of tests all pointed to cat scratch fever, courtesy of a small scratch from a kitten.

"The claw mark healed, so we didn't think a thing of it," Myra said.

However, the tiny scratch had already allowed bacteria into Andrea's body. Cat scratch fever is an infection caused by a germ called Bartonella that is carried by cats.

"They actually have the infection in their bloodstream. Kittens tend to have higher loads of it," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Sarmistha Hauger.

Andrea's case was much worse than most. Usually, antibiotics can clear it up and many people do not need treatment at all. But she had to have two surgeries. Still, doctors say Andrea's prognosis is good.

Doctors believe fleas help cats spread the germ to other cats. The germ is most common in outdoor cats.

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