Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), often called Cat Scratch Fever, is an infection caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. Typically, infected cats transmit the bacteria to humans in a bite or scratch. The Bartonella bacteria are found in fleas and wind up in the cat’s mouth or claws when cats scratch or groom themselves.
Most CSD cases occur in the fall and winter and more often are seen in children under 15 years old. If an infected cat scratches or bites you or a member of your family, then you might notice symptoms including fever, swelling in the lymph nodes, and blisters or scabs at the wound sites. The swelling could last from weeks to months along with other symptoms such as poor appetite, headache, fever, and muscle soreness.
Although most people recover from CSD pretty quickly (a few weeks), more serious symptoms can develop in about 5-15% of those infected, with autoimmune-compromised people more at risk. Serious complications can involve the heart, brain, eyes and intestinal tract. Treatment may include antibiotics.
Cats carrying the Bartonella henselae bacteria, however, often show no CSD symptoms. However, if you notice symptoms like fever, swollen lymphs, vomiting, red eyes, and loss of appetite, Block House Creek suggests making a veterinary appointment.
Some studies suggest that, in the U.S., the blood of up to one-third of otherwise healthy cats may be infected. And recent study data suggests a possible connection between CSD and certain chronic inflammatory conditions in cats, such as inflammatory bowel disease, gingivitis, mouth sores, and certain urinary tract and eye problems.
To minimize the risk of your furry feline friend or family member becoming infected, we recommend the following:
1. Keep cats free of fleas. Ask one of our veterinarians about an appropriate flea control product.
2. Clean and trim your cat’s claws.
3. Avoid rough play with your cat, especially kittens, which could result in scratches or bites.
4. Prevent the cat from licking any open wound.
5. Make sure to wash any scratch or bite with soap and lots of warm water, and perhaps use an antiseptic/antimicrobial skin cleanser like Hibicleanse®.