Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae Infection)

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About 40% of cats carry Bartonella henselae, the bacteria that causes cat scratch disease.

Cat Scratch Disease Treatment

Most individuals with cat scratch disease are self-limited, meaning that they resolve on their on without specific treatment. That usually happens within a few weeks. Most cases do not require antibiotics or specific treatment. Lymph nodes may remain enlarged for a few months. If the lymph nodes remain persistently inflamed or if the illness is very severe, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics such as rifampin (Rifadin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra), or an injection of gentamicin (Garamycin). Antibiotics are given until the skin lesions resolve, usually in three to four weeks.

Cat scratch disease facts*

*Cat scratch disease facts by

  • 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 infection spread by cats. The disease spreads when an infected cat licks a person's open wound, or bites or scratches a person hard enough to break the surface of the skin. About three to 14 days after the skin is broken, a mild infection can occur at the site of the scratch or bite. The infected area may appear swollen and red with round, raised lesions and can have pus. The infection can feel warm or painful. A person with CSD may also have a fever, headache, poor appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the person's lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful.

Wash cat bites and scratches well with soap and running water. Do not allow cats to lick your wounds. Contact your doctor if you develop any symptoms of cat-scratch disease or infection.

CSD is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae. About 40% of cats carry B. henselae at some time in their lives, although most cats with this infection show NO signs of illness. Kittens younger than 1 year are more likely to have B. henselae infection and to spread the germ to people. Kittens are also more likely to scratch and bite while they play and learn how to attack prey.

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