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21 June 2010

A visit to Institute Pasteur

Yesterday one of the stray cats which I feed in our garden scratched my hand as I was about to give her some cat sausage.  The scratch was barely visible except for where her nails went in to my hand and there are three marks rather like pin pricks.  I washed the affected area with warm soapy water and put some antiseptic on it.  However, I knew that despite the fact that it was a minor scratch I would still have to go to the Institute Pasteur to get a rabies injection. 

There is rabies in Tunisia.  It is transmitted through the bite or scratch of a rabid animal, that is an animal infected with the rabies virus.  If left untreated the virus attacks the brain and causes a severe inflammation otherwise known as acute encephalitis.  Non-bite exposure to rabies that is from scratches is still possible but rare.  Once a person is bitten or scratched by a stray animal, they need to have a rabies injection within the first 24 hours.  The vaccine works by stimulating a person's immune system to produce antibodies that neutralise the virus.

Hence the reason why I went to my GP today who perscribed antibiotics as there is also another illness which is caused by cats called "cat scratch disease".  Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection (Bartonella henselae) that causes swelling of the lymph nodes.

 A booster rabies injection vaccine is only effective when administered before the onset of symptoms which is why a person needs to be vaccinated within the first day.  After the vaccination, which was quite painful, I was told to observe the cat for the next ten days and return to the Institute for a
follow-up visit.

It may seem petty, that just because of a minor scratch I had to go through all of the above, but that is the procedure and as the saying goes, "prevention is better than cure".

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