Cat-Scratch Disease

CAT-SCRATCH DISEASE

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Cat scratch fever (also known as cat scratch disease) is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. It is transmitted from a cat (stray, pet, or feral) to human beings when the infected cat scratches (or bites) someone. The main symptoms of cat scratch fever are - red pustules on the skin, fever, swelling of lymph nodes surrounding the affected area, sore throat, headaches, chills, etc. However, people who have a weakened/compromised immunity (HIV patients), the symptoms can pose serious complications. It can cause inflammation of the retina, pneumonia, encephalitis, coma, and even death.
Most cats which carry the Bartonella bacteria seldom show signs of the disease. They hardly show any symptoms of cat scratch fever at all. The possible way to identify this disease in cats is to take a look at their flea/tick infestation history. Sometimes, a cat might have febrile symptoms and be too lethargic. Cats with cat scratch disease bacteria show lack of appetite and also lower fertility. It is usually the fleas that transfer the bacteria among cats.
Cat scratch fever symptoms, though comparatively milder in general popular, can be potentially life-threatening in immunocompromised people. A weak immune system is unable to stop the bacteria from infecting the vital organs of the body and this could be deadly. Encephalopathy (brain inflammation), osteomyelitis (infection in the bones), neuroretinitis (retina and optic nerve damage), etc can be a result of cat scratch disease. Even though these symptoms are largely fatal, death due to cat scratch fever is rarely observed.
Usually, cats are silent carriers of the bacteria in case of cat scratch fever. They can transmit the bacteria but not show any symptoms of cat scratch fever. Cats who have flea/tick infestation are at higher risk of carrying the bacteria. They might have fever and swollen glands. Infected cats are usually lethargic, have a poor appetite, and less fertile.

Overview

Humans can acquire a variety of infectious diseases from animals. This includes not only wild or feral animals but even livestock and the ones in our homes that we keep as pets. Owners of cats may not be aware of this, but your pet cats can actually give you a mild infectious disease when they scratch you playfully or even lick your skin. This is an illness known as cat-scratch disease or cat-scratch fever. This disease is self-limiting and can resolve spontaneously without treatment – however, it may take between two to four months to clear up fully.

 

What Is Cat-Scratch Disease?

CAT-SCRATCH DISEASE handsCat-scratch disease is a benign infectious illness caused by a common bacterium called Bartonella henselae. The disease is known by this name because the bacterium passes on to humans through scratches inflicted by infected cats. This includes pet cats as well as feral or stray cats. A cat that is carrying the bacterium B. henselae may not itself develop any symptoms of the disease and may appear completely healthy. When such a cat scratches a person it can transmit the bacterium to them. This causes small bumps to appear at the infected site and soon the associated lymph nodes become swollen and the person develops a fever. Most often, this is a very mild and self-limiting illness. It can be treated easily.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Individuals with a weak immune system may develop critical complications. Sometimes, even patients with robust immunity do develop severe illness and atypical symptoms.

 

How Does A Person Get Cat-Scratch Disease?

CAT-SCRATCH DISEASEIf you receive a scratch from an infected cat, and hard enough for it to puncture or break your skin, the bacterium can enter your body through this route. Alternatively, if the saliva of an infected cat makes contact with a patch of broken skin, a minor scratch or even your eyes, you could develop a cat-scratch fever.

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, the cat-scratch disease is more common among children up until the age of 15 although it can potentially affect any individual of any age. Further, it is believed that as many as 40% of cats carry this bacterium at some point in their lives. This is especially true of kittens. However, only a small percentage of cats actually develop symptoms of illness as a result of B. henselae infection.

 

What Causes Cat-Scratch Disease?

The agent responsible for causing this illness is a bacterium belonging to the genus Bartonella. Members of this genus are capable of causing a variety of illnesses in humans and animals. In humans, they can affect the skin, liver, eyes and even the brain. Examples of other diseases caused by Bartonella spp include Oroya fever, liver peliosis, endocarditis and trench fever. These bacteria are generally transmitted through vectors such as sandflies, fleas, and lice. It is believed that fleas may be responsible for infecting cats with the bacterium B. henselae which causes cat-scratch disease in humans. This idea has not, however, been substantiated by research.

 

How Does This Illness Develop and What Are Its Symptoms?

The symptoms of the cat-scratch disease may only manifest a few days after the initial inoculation. They may even take some weeks to show up. The earliest symptom usually takes the form of small red spots at the site of entry of the bacteria. Eventually, these spots develop into raised pustules that may then become filled with fluid. These do not cause any pain or itching and can last for a week or more, eventually crusting up. They tend to leave behind scars. During this period, some patients may develop a low-grade fever. Most will also notice that one or more lymph nodes close to the site of the inoculation have swollen up. Swollen lymph nodes feel tender and warm to the touch. This swelling takes somewhat longer to subside and can even become filled with pus. Patients may also develop bacteremia. In other words, the bacteria could enter the patient’s bloodstream.

A detailed list of possible symptoms appears below. An individual patient may display only a few of the following symptoms:

  • Pustules on the skin.
  • Low-grade fever.
  • Localised swelling of lymph nodes close to the site of entry of bacteria.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Chills.
  • Sore throat.
  • Vomiting.
  • Backache.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.

 

What Are Some Potential Complications?

CAT-SCRATCH DISEASE vaccineImmunocompromised patients are more likely to develop severe symptoms. This includes individuals with HIV/AIDS or those who have been undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Recipients of organ transplants are also included here because they are given medications to suppress their immunity. The list below enumerates some of the possible complications:

  • Neuroretinitis or inflammation of the retina and optic nerve in the eye.
  • This is an inflammation of the fibrous layer surrounding the heart.
  • Pleural effusion. This means that there is a collection of excess fluid between the pleural membranes that wrap around the lungs.
  • Encephalitis occurs when the bacteria give rise to inflammation in the brain.
  • Pneumonia, an infectious lung disease.
  • Parinaud’s oculoglandular syndrome which produces a combination of symptoms resembling those of conjunctivitis along with a swelling of lymph nodes close to the ear.
  • Permanent brain damage.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

 

How Is It Diagnosed

The symptoms of the cat-scratch disease are not very specific and can easily be mistaken for those of other conditions. In otherwise healthy patients with a robust immunity, this disease tends to run its course within a period of between 2 to 4 months and without treatment.

Blood tests help to identify the bacterium responsible for the infection. Antibiotics represent the predominant mode of treatment, particularly in patients with a weaker immunity who are otherwise likely to develop more severe symptoms and complications. Severe symptoms may need to be investigated using specific tests. For instance, imaging tests can help to diagnose inflammation in various organs. These will then be treated accordingly.

 

Treatment and Prevention

In most cases, cat scratch disease is a relatively mild condition and usually doesn’t require extensive treatment. If one experiences severe infection and fever, antibiotics may be prescribed to get rid of the underlying bacterial infection.  These are also administered if the lymph nodes become swollen due to the infection. You can prevent the onset of such infections by:

  • Avoiding any form of contact with cats or kittens.
  • Maintaining proper sanitation and hygiene around the pet cat.
  • Keeping your pet cat mostly indoors and vaccinating it.
  • Getting fleas exterminated regularly from your home and surrounding areas.

 

Cat scratch fever (also known as cat scratch disease) is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. It is transmitted from a cat (stray, pet, or feral) to human beings when the infected cat scratches (or bites) someone. The main symptoms of cat scratch fever are - red pustules on the skin, fever, swelling of lymph nodes surrounding the affected area, sore throat, headaches, chills, etc. However, people who have a weakened/compromised immunity (HIV patients), the symptoms can pose serious complications. It can cause inflammation of the retina, pneumonia, encephalitis, coma, and even death.
Most cats which carry the Bartonella bacteria seldom show signs of the disease. They hardly show any symptoms of cat scratch fever at all. The possible way to identify this disease in cats is to take a look at their flea/tick infestation history. Sometimes, a cat might have febrile symptoms and be too lethargic. Cats with cat scratch disease bacteria show lack of appetite and also lower fertility. It is usually the fleas that transfer the bacteria among cats.
Cat scratch fever symptoms, though comparatively milder in general popular, can be potentially life-threatening in immunocompromised people. A weak immune system is unable to stop the bacteria from infecting the vital organs of the body and this could be deadly. Encephalopathy (brain inflammation), osteomyelitis (infection in the bones), neuroretinitis (retina and optic nerve damage), etc can be a result of cat scratch disease. Even though these symptoms are largely fatal, death due to cat scratch fever is rarely observed.
Usually, cats are silent carriers of the bacteria in case of cat scratch fever. They can transmit the bacteria but not show any symptoms of cat scratch fever. Cats who have flea/tick infestation are at higher risk of carrying the bacteria. They might have fever and swollen glands. Infected cats are usually lethargic, have a poor appetite, and less fertile.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Always wash your hands and sanitize them carefully after touching or playing with cats.
  • Seek medical help if the lymph nodes swell up due to the infection.
  • Refrain from petting and touching stray cats, especially if you are immunocompromised.
Don'ts
  • Let any cat (domestic or stray) let you lick in areas near your nose and mouth and also open cuts or wounds.
  • Anger cats so that they end up biting or scratching you.
  • Let fleas gather and spread around cats and where their feces is disposed.

 

 

 

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Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
oral hygiene tips
6 shocking consequences of bad oral hygiene (and how to avoid them) Did you know bad breath is not just turning off, but also harms your body in ways you…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
C-Reactive Protein Test A CRP or c-reactive protein blood test is an important diagnostic tool used to determine the risk of…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Surgery or home-remedy; what is the right way to treat a burn The treatment of a burn injury depends on its severity. You can save a life by offering the…
ASTtest-liver
AST- Aspartate Aminotransferase Test AST test is a blood test that is used to measure the level of a particular liver enzyme…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
lipoprotein A
Lipoprotein (A) Test Lipoprotein (A) test is used to measure and monitor the levels of LDL(Low-Density Lipoprotein) in the bloodstream in…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
top 10 deadliest diseases
What are the top 10 deadliest diseases and what is causing them? What are the largest killers of human lives across the globe? Which diseases are the most fatal ones?…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic Resistance: How common diseases become deadly Can a cold kill you? How important is to get a flu shot? Why do antibiotics fail against…
toxo gondii igm test
Toxo Gondii-IgM Test The toxo gondii IgM test is a blood test that tells the presence or absence of toxoplasmosis IgM…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
Top reasons why you need to pay attention to your vitamin B6 intake Vitamin B6- An essential water-soluble vitamin. Its deficiency leads to physical changes such as sores & glossy tongue…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can it protect you…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
PROLACTIN-(PRL)
Prolactin Test (PRL) Prolactin or PRL is a lactogenic hormone produced to induce milk production in lactating mothers. PRL test measures…
cardiolipin antibody igm
Cardiolipin Antibody (ACL) –IgM Test This particular test measures the level of IgM type antibodies in the blood by using the ELISHA test…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
carbamazepine
Carbamazepine / Tegretol test The carbamazepine is a drug that is used to treat epilepsy and the carbamazepine test is performed to…
Helicobacter pylori IGA
Helicobacter Pylori – IgA Test The H.pylori IgA test is a blood test used to identify the level of IgA antigen in the…
Sharpen your brain with these top brain-friendly foods! Did you know your diet could decide how razor sharp your memory is? Or that what you eat…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
labiaplasty
Labiaplasty Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to modify the labia minora and the labia majora. Learn about who can…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Cardiolipin Antibody (ACL) –IgG Test The cardiolipin antibody IgG are responsible for the abnormal formation of clots in veins and arteries or phlebitis…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
free testosterone test
Free testosterone Free Testosterone Test measures and monitors the level of the free testosterone in the blood. Less than 4%…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
anti-chlamydia antibody tets
Anti-Chlamydia Antibody -IgG Test Anti-Chlamydia Antibody - IgG test is performed by collection of urine or genital fluids as sample for testing…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Gua sha: Scraping away layers of pain with this ancient healing tool Gua sha is an ancient oriental healing method which focuses on scraping the body with specific tools to…
hsv-igg
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody which stays in the blood…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of health benefits. Discover…
Olive Leaf Extract: The healthy goodness of olives in a capsule Olive oil is not the only gift from the Olea Europea tree. Olive leaf extract itself is a…

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