What is cat scratch disease?

Cat scratch disease is a condition caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae, which is carried by cats. The disease is spread through cat bites, cat scratches, or exposure to cat saliva. Kittens are more likely than older cats to carry the bacteria and transmit the disease to humans. Anyone exposed to cats can develop cat scratch disease. Approximately 40% of cats have been carriers of the bacteria that cause cat scratch disease at some point in their life. An estimated 22,000 new infections occur every year in the United States (Source: CDC, CDC)

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The disease begins several days after a cat scratch or bite, when a small blister or bump may develop at the site of the injury. The blister or bump may go unnoticed. A week or two later, other symptoms start to develop. Swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, and a general ill feeling may occur. Cat scratch disease often requires no treatment, resolving on its own.

Serious complications of cat scratch fever are rare but can occur. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe pain, high fever, confusion, lethargy, loss or change in level of consciousness, or seizures.

Seek prompt medical care if you have a scratch or bite that appears infected or does not seem to be healing, or if you develop symptoms that suggest cat scratch disease, such as swollen lymph nodes or fever after you have been bitten or scratched by a cat. Also seek care if your symptoms recur, are persistent, or cause you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of cat scratch disease?

A small bump or blister is commonly the first symptom of cat scratch disease. After a couple of weeks, swollen lymph nodes and fever may develop. The swollen lymph nodes may take several months to resolve. Complications are rare but can occur.... Read more about cat scratch diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes cat scratch disease?

Cat scratch disease is caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria. Cats can carry the bacteria and transmit the disease to humans by biting, scratching or licking. Fleas can also carry the bacteria and can transmit the bacteria from cat to cat. It is not known whether fleas play a role in transmitting the disease to humans.... Read more about cat scratch diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is cat scratch disease treated?

Cat scratch disease typically resolves over a period of months without treatment. If you have a serious infection or a weakened immune system, your health care professional may prescribe antibiotic therapy.... Read more about cat scratch diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases


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