Cat Scratch Disease
(Bartonella henselae Infection)
Cat scratch disease facts*
*Cat scratch disease facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOE
- Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial disease caused by Bartonella henselae.
- It is often caused by a bite or scratch from a cat. Kittens are more likely to pass on the bacteria.
- Symptoms of cat scratch disease include swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
- To reduce your risk of getting CSD avoid rough play with cats and kittens, wash cat bites and scratches thoroughly, and contact your physician if you develop any symptoms following a cat bite or scratch.
What is cat scratch disease?
Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial disease caused by Bartonella henselae. Most people with CSD have been bitten or scratched by a cat and developed a mild infection at the point of injury. Lymph nodes, especially those around the head, neck, and upper limbs, become swollen. Additionally, a person with CSD may experience fever, headache, fatigue, and a poor appetite. Rare complications of B. henselae infection are bacillary angiomatosis and Parinaud's oculolandular syndrome.
Can my cat transmit Bartonella henselae to me?
Sometimes, yes, cats can spread B. henselae to people. Most people get CSD from cat bites and scratches. Kittens are more likely to be infected and to pass the bacterium to people. About 40% of cats carry B. henselae at some time in their lives. Cats that carry B. henselae do not show any signs of illness; therefore, you cannot tell which cats can spread the disease to you. People with immunocompromised conditions, such as those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments for cancer, organ transplant patients, and people with HIV/AIDS, are more likely than others to have complications of CSD. Although B. henselae has been found in fleas, so far there is no evidence that a bite from an infected flea can give you CSD.
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