Calling Ted Nugent fans, or anyone who wants to know about Cat Scratch fever...

Real Estate Agent with Ozarks' Independent Realty

Maybe I am showing my age here, but I remember that old song, "Cat Scratch fever." I always thought it an odd title, and never knew that any such illness actually existed. Until last month, that is...

On September 28th, I had BPOs to do. It was afternoon, so I picked up my girls and hit the road. I got the 2 drive-bys done quickly, then headed out to BFE for the interior inspection. What a house! Absolutely beautiful log home. We hung out there for quite awhile so I could get enough pics for the bank. Then, we get into the car, back up, and the car doesn't feel right. I hop out, and see a flat tire. Great. But what is worse is my jack is broken and the donut spare won't come out of my trunk. We walk up the 1/4 mile driveway to the road, in a strange remote location, we say a quick prayer, and head to the neighboring house. the owner was not able to help us, but within a few minutes another neighbor came by, and by the time we jogged down the driveway, he had the car jacked up and was waiting for me to open the trunk. He refused payment and referred to us as his neighbors in Christ. Such a mundane task as changing a tire was a great witness for us!

Then we were on our way to the closest Wal-Mart to have the tire fixed. About halfway there (we're talking 30 miles to the closest one), my 11 year old started complaining about a headache. I gave her a Tylenol. By the time we got there, she said she hurt everywhere. I told her to let the Tylenol start working. During the hour we waited, she became noticeably ill, and her temperature shot up. I bought a thermometer, and her fever was at 103. By the time we finally got out of there and on the way home, I had also bought some Motrin and gave her one of those, as I was always told to leap-frog the 2 drugs for best effect. When we got home, she went straight to bed. She woke up 3 times in the night with her fever spiking and body aches. We assumed it was the flu, so I just treated her fever all weekend, and she slept most of it. I had no idea that this was just the beginning!

Monday, she was still sick, complaining of abdominal pains, shooting pains through her one hip and knee, and that fever that never would get lower than 101. I called in to work and took her to Urgent Care. the nurse practitioner thought it was a virus of some sort and told me to keep her on the meds as I had been, bring her back if she gets worse. Tuesday, she was back there, in worse pain. They thought appendicitus and Xrayed and ran blood work. No elevated white cell count, slightly enlarged liver, no sign of appendicitus, clean UA. The white cells that respond to bacteria were slightly high, so they assumed an infection of some sort was starting and put her on antibiotics. 2 days later, she was still no better, so I took her back. the third practitioner re-ran all the tests and all had the same results. She changed antibiotics and said they couldn't help her anymore, that if she wasn't better or got worse, to take her straight to the ER. Monday evening, I did that. It was a waste of 4 1/2 hours, as their attitude was that since it wasn't a life threatening emergency, we were wasting their time. they did run blood work and another UA, and said it was a virus. I asked if they could tell me what kind of virus causes a high fever for 11 days, and when could we  expect to see an improvement. no answers to that. So I took her to a pediatrician the next day. She looked over all the prior labs and tests, said it was absolutely not a virus, and scheduled an abdominal ultrasound for the next day. We missed the appointment.

Later that day, Tuesday, afternoon, we were in the car going to pick up her sister, when she started screaming "it hurts!" The pains in her knee intensified to the point she couldn't stand it, so we picked up her sister, called my husband and our pastor, and headed back to Urgent care. She was not able to walk or move the leg at all. we sat with her for about an hour before that pain passed. then she started having kidney pain at the same unbearable level. This time, there was blood in her urine. The practitionaer, who was the first one to have seen her, called her pediatrician, and they had her admitted to the local hospital, where she spent 2 days getting her ultrasound, IV antibiotics, MRI of her spine (a neurologist found marked weakness and lack of relexes in that one leg) and blood work for  a lot of things, including Bartonella, the bacteria that causes Cat Scratch Disease. After 2 days in the hospital, her fever was staying lower, but not gone, so they let her go home with more antibiotics. And we were to wait nearly a week for the test results. After 2 days, her fevers resumed at the high level, so we went back to the pediatrician. this time, it was decided she needed to go the Children's Hospital in St Louis, because they just weren't finding out what was wrong. an appointment was made with an infectious disease specialist. then all the original test results came in. everything was negative, including bartonella and tularemia (rabbit fever), so we were back at square one.

In St Louis, they ran tests for everything from HIV, various cancers, and all the animal borne illnesses, as well as for different parasites and tick fevers. Then they sent her down for a CT scan. Before we left the hospital, the doctors came in and showed us images from the scan- she had many lesions on her liver! I freaked out, but they said it was consistent with cat Scratch fever, which had been the pediatrician's most likely choice, in spite of the negative results. So they changed the antibiotic to one that is more effective with this illness, a double-course of it, and sent us home. Within 2 days, her fever was gone! It was still a few days before she felt well enough to go to school, as the extreme fatigue and body aches continued, but within her first week back, she had caught up on 3 weeks of missed schoolwork. I wish I could catch up on MY work that easily! The lab results finally came back in from St Louis- the test for bartonella was positive, so she did have Cat scratch fever. Turned out the original tests done here had been mistakenly done for a specific, rare type of the illness. the doctor had ordered the test for the more common type, but they did NOT run that one, and that is what she had...We go back to St Louis next week, to have the scan repeated and make sure her liver is healing as it should.

So, here is what I learned. Normally a scratch or bite is involved, and normally it gets infected or gets pimpl-like bumps around it. Normally there are swollen lymph glands. Those things never happened to my daughter. Sudden high fever and onset of body-aches is common, like the flu. Extreme fatigue occurs, appetite decreases (my little girl lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks). It usually takes at least a week for antibodies to build up that can show on blood tests. Normally the white cell count goes through the roof, but that never happened with my daughter, either. Most cats will carry the bacteria at some point in their lives, but they don't show symptoms of any illness. The bacteria can cause damage to liver, kidneys and other organs, occasionally can cause inflammation in the spine/nervous system and then there can be loss of reflexes, weakness and pain in a limb, and very rarely it can be fatal. Unless your hospital has a full lab, any blood test for the illness will probably have to be sent out and it will take several days to come back. It seems like this is a pretty common illness, but it affects people in different ways. In my daughter's case, it was pretty severe, but it couls have been worse...

And if it wasn't for that nagging feeling I had that it was more than a virus and SOMEBODY needed to figure it out, it would have gone on a lot longer and probably caused lasting damage. But I trust those instincts and really kept pushing people until we got to the bottom of it. Lots of support from my pastor's family and church, lots of prayers, and lots of people doing research for me all helped! My daughter is feeling well now, hasn't gained any weight back yet, but I'm sure that will come, in time.



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Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

I'm so glad to hear she is on the road to recovery, but what a scary time must have been.  Praise God for his healing power! 

I definitely learned something about cat scratch fever from this post.  Thanks!

Nov 10, 2007 12:19 PM #1
Stacy Magid
Century 21 New Millennium - Woodbridge, VA
Oh my goodness.  How scary.  So glad to hear that your daughter is getting better.  Did your daughter get scratched or bitten by a cat?
Nov 10, 2007 12:51 PM #2
Diane Velikis
Coldwell & Banker Busch Real Estate - Luzerne, PA
Luzerne County Real Estate
Thank you for your post. I was never quite sure what cat scratch fever was. Thank God your daughter is doing better!
Nov 10, 2007 09:36 PM #3
Amber Bourland
Ozarks' Independent Realty - West Plains, MO

Stacy- We DO have several cats. We live way out in the country and people dump animals all the time, and they all seem to find us (they know I'm a sucker, I guess). But to our knowledge and her memory, she hadn't had any scratches or bites for a long time. I guess the incubation period is fairly long (2+ weeks), so that is very possible. We were concerned about tularemia for awhile since she has helped us take care of our rabbits, and some wild ones in the area appear ill (neighbors called and told us not to eat any wild rabbits because they act strange and sickly). Some research suggests flea bites can spread it, some believe dogs (again, we have several of those, too) can carry and spread it but never get sick. It is still being extensively researched and all the answers aren't in yet...

To all of you- I believe firmly that it was God who helped the doctors find the answers. Our pediatrician admitted she was stumped, especially with the white cell counts never really elevating as should have happened with any type of infection. She prayed, and then kept leaning toward bartonella infection, even though the test was normal (the one they ran for the wrong type of bartonella). we have a fantastic church family who helped and prayed us through this. from the pastor keeping my other daughter while we were in the hospital, to constant prayers. i know one thing for sure- my daughter knows how much she is loved by so many now!

Nov 11, 2007 01:40 AM #4
Alexander Harb
Knights Investing - Mesquite, TX
Dallas, Texas Real Estate Investing

I am glad your little one is all right, sis!!!

We never had problems like that when I was growing up...never got scratched or bitten by our cats...we never provoked them to that point...... we liked to play with them, but never got them angry.... our parents warned us a LOT to NOT get them angry, because of the bites and scratches we might end up getting....

I wonder how it happened that she got that illness.....

Nov 11, 2007 02:41 PM #5
Amber Bourland
Ozarks' Independent Realty - West Plains, MO
Alexander, We wonder how she got it, too. She is one of the world's most loving, gentle kids, so provoking is not even an option. She does play with the cats and COULD have been scratched a bit, but she never had any sign of infected scratch/bite, etc, like is commonly seen. She never had enlarged lymph nodes, either, which seems to be one of the main symptoms. We assume that it can be spread through flea bites, as the bugs have been terrible this year. Some researchers say it can, others say no. We may never know exactly how she got it. I wonder if maybe there was more than one thing going on with her simultaneously. Hopefully this week in St louis will give us more answers...
Nov 12, 2007 03:08 AM #6
Cheri Smith
Prudential Gary Greene, Cypress TX - Cypress, TX
Realtor Prudential Gary Greene

My daughter had cat scratch fever in the 6th grade. That was 2 years ago. She too complained of headaches and had a rash. I too took her to the doctor and they said she was fine and sent her home. By lunch time the next day she was feeling worse. We were in the car and she started having a seizure. I parked the car, jumped out and picked her up and laid her on the grass of the median while she finished her seizure (the first in her life). I called 911 and they came and picked her up. She was in a coma for a week while they did spinal taps, mri's , you name it they did it to her. They had started her on antibiotics in the hopes they were giving her the one she needed till they found out if it was meningitis, west nile virus....whatever. They treated me like a criminal at times questioning me about a bruise she had the size of a dime on her thigh!! Asking me all kinds of questions which to this day irritate me that insinuated that we had done something to our daughter!! Meaning, they couldn't find a logical explanation so it must be her parents right!? Wrong.

She started to come out of the coma at the end of a week. They kept her on oral antibiotics and we left the hospital. A week later they said the labs came back and it had been cat scratch fever. She had been scratched by a stray kitten she'd found out in the woods by our house. The scratch was less than 1/2 inch long on her hand. That cat died that same week from unknown reasons. The doctors say lots of cats are carriers though and most people just never get as seriously ill as she did or even associate their illness with the animal they were around. It is VERY important that people wash their hands after handling ANY animal and if bitten or scratched that they clean it with alcohol immediately. A 1/4 inch scratch nearly killed my daughter so I take this very seriously now. I am glad your daughter is fine. I know how you felt. It is to date the worst experience of my life.

Nov 12, 2007 04:11 AM #7

Wow, Cheri! And I thought MY daughter had it bad!  I cannot even imagine what it would be like if any of my children got as sick as yours did. Praise God that she recovered! What you said about most people not even associating their illness to an animal encounter is part of what had our doctors testing for so many things. Our pup had recently gone through parvo, and my daughter had helped give her and the others their shots and her subcutaneous fluids. I mentioned the parvo to the doctors, not knowing of it could be contracted by people. They started asking about cats and othe animals, and for awhile, tularemia looked the most likely, which would have had to be reported to the health dept and CDC. I am so glad it wasn't that!

Anyway, people, this can obviously be a very serious illness. being informed helps, and being able to do basic research on WebMD andother health sites is helpful. But NOTHING replaces good old-fashioned instinct and parental love... If you know there is something wrong and they keep acting like it's nothing, insist on a different opinion or more tests. I think we all really just know when something is wrong with our children, and it's up to us to make sure the doctors look until they find it!

Nov 12, 2007 04:43 AM #8
James & Tara Painting
Silverman Realty Inc. - Jacksonville, FL
Realtor - Jacksonville, Florida

I am very happy your daughter is alright. I myself have had cat scratch fever. I got if from a scratch. It is incredibly painful My arm swelled up like a balloon. I don't wish that on anyone.


Nov 12, 2007 05:30 AM #9
» Bill Burress Nationwide Mortgage Originator
» Bill Burress Nationwide Mortgage Originator - Fort Myers, FL


I didn't know Cat Scratch Fever was real.

Nov 13, 2007 09:51 AM #10
Judith Reppert
United Country Countryside Realty - Mount Vernon, MO
Wow, Amber, how scary!  I'm very glad that she is better now.  Good for you for keeping after those doctors.
Nov 14, 2007 12:13 PM #11
Rita Gibbons
MacDoc Realty LLC - Fredericksburg, VA
The Gibbons Group
Wow - I never heard about this type of disease!  I've heard the song for years.  I'm glad to hear your daughter's on the road to recovery!  What a horrible ordeal to go through!
Nov 14, 2007 01:04 PM #12
Amber Bourland
Ozarks' Independent Realty - West Plains, MO

Update: We just got back from St Louis, and the doctor there didn't think my daughter needed another CT scan, they are so sure the lesions on her liver were from the illness. I did find out that she should now be immune to ever developing the illness again, and the doctor told me if she ever did get this disease again, for me to bring her back up there because she could get published in "the Journals" if she could document a second case in an otherwise healthy person.

So, we took the kids to the zoo, the art museum, the planetarium, and the science center while there. It made it seem more like a vacation than a medical appointment. But that is WAY too much to do in one day!!!

Nov 15, 2007 02:27 PM #13
Amy Whiffen
RE/MAX Southern Shores - Myrtle Beach, SC
REALTOR - Myrtle Beach Real Estate
Wow Amber, thank you for sharing! What a horrible thing to happen to child. I have two small children and would have never have thought of cat scratch fever being possible.
Nov 16, 2007 12:52 AM #14
Elizabeth Nieves
The Elizabeth Nieves Realty Group - Durham, NC
Bilingual Raleigh - Durham North Carolina Real Estate Team
What an unbelievable story!! I did not know that 'cat scratch fever' was real. MAN! Thanks for educating us. PRAISE GOD that your daughter is getting better. I KNOW how terrifying it is when your baby is very sick. GBY and YOUR FAMILY!
Nov 16, 2007 02:58 AM #15
Timothy Schwartz
Century 21 Mack Morris Iris Lurie - Marlboro Twp, NJ

Amber, I am glad your daughter is feeling better.  If you have any old Ted Nugent albums feel free to post them in Rain Bay :)

Nov 18, 2007 01:25 AM #16
Sondra Meyer:
Star View Real Estate - Colorado Springs, CO
See It. Experience It. Live It.

Amber, as other have said, I never knew that cat scratch fever was a real thing.  I praise the Lord that your  daughter is recovering nicely.  I can't imagine how tough it must have been tough for a while. 

Also, thank you for responding to my blog about whether our actions and attitudes reflect Christian behavior.  I'm new to AR and have been opting to respond to people on their blogs, so I can see a little more about the person.  As is evident  about you in your blog above, our faith and trust in the Lord is hopfully a part of who we are. 

Grace and peace, Sondra

Nov 26, 2007 03:22 PM #17



I just stumbled upon your blog while I was researching "no pain reflex" and Bartonella.  My son, too, has Bartonella, which I got from me congenitally.  It didn't surface until he was 2 year old and we didn't get it fully diagnosed (with Lyme Disease and Babesiosis, all congenital) until October of 2008.


I am super curious how your child is doing.  Did the short course of treatment resolve it?  Was there Lyme Disease as well.  Most Bartonella comes into the body from ticks, rather than cats. .but our doctors didn't know that and didn't even bother to test my little guy.  Instead, they just suspected and treated with IV antibiotics until he started responding.


Would love to hear from you about how things are.  Hopefully good!

Sep 12, 2009 12:46 PM #18
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