Beware pets that can become health pests!
Because if you give him an unwanted peck, he might give you Psittacosis. Whazzat? That’s another way of spelling ‘fatal attraction’… And while you’re about it, you might as well also watch out for (Ouch!) pussy’s claws, (Scratch, scratch!) leaping fleas, and (Eeeagh!) hairy-scary caterpillars…
If you are suddenly besieged by high fever, chills and a splitting headache, you’ll probably think you have malaria. Or even pneumonia. So might your doctor. Then he might embark upon a whole lot of anti-malarial drugs – even those for resistant malaria. You won’t get better, so he’ll switch over to strong antibiotics. Again, no go. Then you’ll both beat your foreheads in frustration. But, finally, if your physician is perceptive enough, he’ll ask you if you’ve got a bird. You’ll answer in the affirmative. Suddenly, his face will light up with a ‘Eureka’ expression. He’ll have just realised you’re suffering from Psittacosis.
Come again, you say, Psittacosis. It’s a disease that is passed on to man by birds. When parrots and parakeets are the culprits, sorry, carries, Ornithosis, is the word used. Other birds that carry this disease are pigeons and poultry (although it’s quite rare to get the disease from hens). Apart from the symptoms already mentioned, you could get a harsh, dry, intermittent cough and occasionally bring up a little sputum and even blood. There is generalised bodyache and the back and neck muscles could become stiff and painful, so the condition could even be mistaken by doctors for meningitis. Some patients feel tired, listless and depressed and complain of insomnia as well. With such a wide range of possible symptoms it’s easy to see how doctors can be misled. Especially when you consider that there could be even further complications of this illness – including pleurisy with effusion or water in the lungs, inflammation of the heart muscles or myocarditis membrane or pericarditis. The malady could even prove fatal. Actually kissing parrots, not washing your hands after handling birds (and their feeding dishes) before you sit down to lunch, and staying in extremely close proximity to them could make you a victim of psittacosis a week or two after contact, that’s how long the incubation period is. Occasionally, however, you could just get a mild ‘flu-like indisposition which might pass off by itself.
But why take chances? The disease can be diagnosed by getting an x-ray done; this shows a pneumonia-like picture. There is also protein in the urine. But the confirmatory test is a blood culture which reveals the causative bacteria. Otherwise, the overall picture of the disease can be confusing, since Psittacosis could be mistaken for Tuberculosis and Infectious mononucleosis as well as the other conditions listed above. Tetracycline is the best drug for this disease.
BEWARE OF PUSSY’S CLAWS!
Chances are you’ve heard of an ailment called cat Scratch disease, but is there really such a thing? Yes, there is, rare though it may be. All you need is a cat, sharp claws, some provocation and – OUCH! She’s raked her nails into you! What happens next? A tiny, pimple-like swelling may appear at the site of the scratch, approximately three to ten days later. Two weeks after this, the lymph glands in the neck (or armpits or groin) become swollen and painful. Very often, this is all that happens. But in some patients there may also be high fever, headache, nausea and exhaustion. Only five per cent develop a body rash that resembles measles.
A skin test confirms the diagnosis. A biopsy of the swollen gland may also be done as additional confirmation.
This ailment cannot be transmitted from one person to another, so there’s no need to isolate the sufferer. Usually, no treatment is needed, apart from giving medicines for the fever. The outcome is excellent. The swollen glands disappear spontaneously in two to six months. The subsequent immunity to this disease lasts a lifetime. On the whole, this is a very rare disease, so you needn’t throw out your poor feline.
WATCH OUT FOR THOSE LEAPING FLEAS
One can get a skin irritation from the fleas of dogs, cats and rats. Several people show no response to a flea bite, but in those who are sensitive, the flea’s saliva causes a tiny, raised, reddish swelling. There is intense itching, so they scratch the affected area again and again, introducing infection into the skin, which ulcerates or develops pustules. This condition is known as Flea Dermatitis. One can control the fleas by keeping the house and all pets scrupulously clean (oneself too!), regularly delousing one’s pets and their beds with powders or by using flea collars. The dermatitis is treated with soothing creams and anti-allergy pills.
STAY AWAY FROM MR. CATERPILLAR!
Caterpillars do seem to appear in the most unexpected places – like the chair in which you’re just about to sit, or on your sweater hanging out on the clothesline! Before you can say ‘hairy horror’, one has brushed against you. And left its stinging bristles deeply embedded in your skin. You feel a terrific burning pain in the area. Redness and urticaria (hives) develop. And the more you scratch, the deeper you push the hairs in. some enterprising victims employ dough, which is rolled in a to-and-fro motion over the area. Let me tell you an even better method, a sure-fire one – using sticking plaster. Just fix a strip of it to the skin where the hairs are embedded, press, lift off one end and pull sharply – presto, all the bristles come out and the itching soon subsides.
If left alone, the inflammation usually subsides in 24 hours, but in some people a severe allergy develops which may have to be treated with I.V. Calcium Gluconate. In less serious cases, anti-allergy pills and soothing creams help after the hairs have been pulled out.
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