QUESTION: I am heartsick. My little niece spent a few days with us, and she got sick when she got home. Her mother, my sister, tells me she had cat-scratch fever. We do have a new kitten. Should I get rid of this disease carrier? Please answer soon! - Mrs. J.N.
ANSWER: Cat-scratch fever sounds like an ominous illness, but it really isn't.It begins with a very tiny blister, usually on the hand or arm, and it is often so small that the person might not even notice it. It then crusts over. Lymph nodes in the arm swell, most often those of the underarm. There may be a slight fever along with all this.
Usually, no treatment is required and things subside with time.
You don't have to get rid of the cat. Cats carry the causative organisms only for a few weeks.
Incidentally, the cat itself doesn't get sick. Nor does it have to cause a visible scratch to transmit the germ. All will be well. Don't worry. Pass this information on to your sister to ease any anxiety that may have arisen from your niece's encounter with your cat.
QUESTION: I have never seen anything in your column regarding spina bifida occulta. My granddaughter has it. Please comment. I'll be watching. - W.K.
ANSWER: I wish I could send you a picture of the spine. Descriptions of spina bifida occulta leave much to be desired.
If you look at X-rays of many backs, you will find spinal bifida occulta in one out of five. Only a few forebode trouble.
It's something that occurs as the backbone is developing. One of the spine sections doesn't fuse properly with the adjacent one. This leaves a small defect. The occulta reference indicates a hidden condition without symptoms.
Defects seldom result from this, which is more or less an incidental X-ray finding. I am interested in more details, however. Will you let me know what's going on and what your doctor says about this? I am not speaking about the condition, spina bifida. As opposed to the occulta condition, that is a serious spinal problem.
Spinal complaints are discussed in the spine report. Others may order by writing Dr. Donohue/No. 3, Box 830, Gibbstown, NJ 08027-9909, enclosing a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope and $2.
Dr. Donohue welcomes reader mail but regrets that, due to the tremendous volume received daily, he is unable to answer individual letters. Readers' questions are incorporated in his column whenever possible.