Cat-scratch disease, also known as cat-scratch fever or Bartonella Henselae Infection, is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans through a cat’s saliva. It is not considered a severe infection in people normally considered healthy but it can be a severe problem for those with weakened immune systems.
Cause of Cat-Scratch Disease
Bartonella Henselae bacteria are the cause of cat-scratch disease. Cats can transmit these bacteria to humans through their saliva.
Veterinarians are unsure how a cat becomes infected with the bacteria. Some studies indicate that cats may get the bacteria from fleas. The Bartonella Henselae bacteria live in the infected cat’s blood. They are transmitted to their saliva by scratching and grooming themselves.
Cats then transmit the bacteria to humans through saliva. This transfer can take place from a cat bite resulting in a direct transference. A cat scratch can also transmit the bacteria. When the cat licks himself bacteria will be transferred onto his paws. Petting a cat with the bacteria and then rubbing your eyes may also transfer the disease.
The disease is more commonly found in kittens, or young cats, than in older felines. An estimated 40% of cats have carried the bacteria at some point in their lives.
While cat-scratch disease can effect people of any age, it is most commonly found in children.
Signs and Symptoms of Cat-Scratch Disease
1. A brownish bump, or sore, develops where a cat has bitten or scratched. This may not heal in a normal amount of time and an area of redness may get bigger right around the injury.
2. Fever that lasts for several days after receiving a bite or scratch.
3. Swollen lymph nodes, usually near the site of injury (for 2-3 weeks or more). They will also be tender and painful.
4. Bone, joint or abdominal pain (for 2-3 weeks or more)
6. Fatigue (for 2-3 weeks or more)
7. Poor Appetite
Diagnosis of Cat-Scratch Disease
If you recall being bitten,or scratched, by a cat your doctor may be able to diagnose the disease based on the injury and any typical signs of the disease. Not everyone who has cat-scratch fever remembers being bitten or scratched.
Blood tests can also be used in diagnosis.
Treatment of Cat-Scratch Disease
The disease will often clear without treatment or antibiotics may be administered. If your lymph nodes are especially large, and painful, your doctor may choose to drain them to alleviate any pain.
Cats only seem to be able to transmit the cat-scratch infection for a few weeks. Younger cats are more likely to carry the bacteria than older cats. Households with kittens have higher rates of infection. If the kittens have fleas, the infection rate is even higher. Your cats do not need to be treated for the disease. The bacteria does not harm them. Play carefully with your cats, especially the younger ones, and have your cats on a flea prevention program. Do not entice they to play roughly which may cause them to bite or scratch. Cat-scratch disease can be annoying, but unless you are immune compromised, should not present any significant health risks. Play safely and have fun!