Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella henselae Infection)
Commonly abbreviated as CSD, Cat Scratch Disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. As the name suggests, CSD is often caused by scratches and bites from cats that become infected. An indication of CSD is when the lymph nodes around the neck, heads, and sometimes the upper limbs show signs of swelling. Other symptoms of CSD may include fatigue, fever, headache, and a loss of appetite. In rare instances, complications from CSD may arise such as Parinaud’s oculolandular syndrome and bacillary angiomatosis.
Cats do have the capacity to spread Bartonella henselae to humans. Kittens pose a greater risk than cats and pass the bacterium onto their owners more often than adult cats. At some point in their lifetimes, approximately forty percent of cats become carriers of the Bartonella henselae. Cats who are carriers display no symptoms and will not act sickly. It is impossible to tell whether or not a cat can spread the disease to their owner.
Individuals with weak immune systems, cancer patients, recipients of organ transplants, and individuals with HIV infection or AIDS should be extra cautious around cats because they are more vulnerable to CSD. There have been reports of Bartonella henselae found inside fleas, however, there have been no instances of flea bites causing CSD in humans.
To prevent CSD, cat owners should be careful not to get scratched and bitten by cats, especially when they are still kittens. If you experience a wound from a cat, wash the wounds thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid coming in contact with your cat if you have open wounds. Prevent and control fleas should they occur. If a wound becomes infected and swells and pus is visible, contact your doctor. If you have recently been wounded and are experiencing fever, swelling of your lymph nodes, fatigue, or headaches, also contact your doctor as quickly as possible.