You can contract cat scratch disease when a cat infected with B. henselae bacteria scratches or bites you. Because the bacteria are found in cat saliva, you can also get the disease if an infected cat licks an open wound on your body. Forty percent of those cuddly cuties carry B. henselae bacteria at some point in their lives, but kittens are more likely to harbor them than are adult cats. Felines that spend their entire lives indoors are less likely to transmit the disease.
The first sign that you have cat scratch disease is a bump or blister at the site of the scratch or bite. You might get a mild fever, headache, and just an overall sick and fatigued feeling. After two or three weeks, enlarged lymph glands might develop and can linger for months. Most people will get over cat scratch disease without treatment, but severe cases are treated with antibiotics.
The bacterium Bartonella henselae causes cat scratch disease.
Who's at Risk?
Anyone who gets scratched or bitten by an infected cat is at risk for cat scratch disease, but those who have a weakened immune system are more likely to suffer serious symptoms, such as appetite loss, weight loss, and an enlarged spleen. These people will likely need to be treated with antibiotics to fully recover.
Because cats that are infected with the B. henselae bacterium exhibit no symptoms, and because the bacterium doesn't make cats sick, it's difficult to know whether yours is infected. However, you can take some preventative measures:
- Avoid aggressive play with any cat.
- Some types of fleas carry the B. henselae bacterium, so keeping fleas away from your feline can help keep infection at bay. Ask your veterinarian about flea collars or other treatments to keep fleas off your cat. People cannot get the infection from fleas.
- If you are bitten or scratched, wash the site immediately with mild soap and water.
- Don't let your cat lick any of your open wounds.
In the final section, we will discuss parrot fever, which people can contact if they inhale bird remnants such as feathers or dust from dried bird droppings. Parrot fever is rare, but it can be dangerous.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.