This serious disease of men and animals is caused by fungus growths, which grow in extended chains. The actinomyces grows like a star. When the condition affects cattle it is called lumpy jaw. Cattle are attacked by the disease more frequently than men.
When a human being is affected with actinomycosis, it is usually from chewing grass or straw or grain which has been infected with the organisms. Therefore the condition is more frequently seen in laborers and farmers than in other classes of people.
When the fungus gets into the body, it enters usually through decayed teeth or diseased tonsils, following the chewing of a straw. The first sign is usually a hard lumpy swelling at the lower edge of the jaw or in front of the ears, such as occurs in mumps. After the skin becomes elevated and lumpy, pus forms, and soon there is an open running growth. The material from this growth is also infected, and it is necessary to observe sanitary precautions around such people.
The treatment of actinomycosis involves surgical removal of the infected material. Sometimes the X ray is used. Antibiotics and sulfonamide drugs are also employed to control the infection. The patient must be kept clean and everything possible done to avoid contamination of other people or of materials with the pus from the infected area. Meat from animals with actinomycosis is condemned and infected animals are destroyed.