Cat scratch fever (also known as cat scratch disease, CSD) is an infection caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae which is carried in cat saliva. The bacteria is one of the most common types in the world. While cat scratch fever is usually a mild condition, people with weakened immune systems and young individuals tend to be more at risk of acquiring a severe infection.
In the case of CSD, cats are the primary culprits behind the majority of infections in humans. Many people may notice signs after a scratch and ignore them, but it is crucial to take action when you see a difference in your skin and other parts of your body. Learn more about CSD and how to protect yourself below.
How Will I Know I Am Infected?
Cats are the primary carriers of the bacteria that create CSD, but they do not always become ill when they catch it. And they can unknowingly infect others. Since cats rarely show symptoms, it is difficult to determine whether they are sick or not.
Common symptoms of infection are:
- Redness or inflammation
- Warmth over the affected area
- A bump or blister near the bite puncture
These signs generally do not require medical attention. However, seek immediate care if you encounter any of the following symptoms:
- A bite or scratch that becomes inflamed and tender within a few days and worsens over time
- Sore or swollen glands under the arms (hand wound) or in the groin (lower leg wound)
- Pus leaking from a blistered wound
- Loss of feeling near the wound
- Red or discolored streaks close to the wound
- Flu-like symptoms include:
- Reduced appetite
- Joint pain
- Fever or chills
What Is the Cause of CSD?
Cats typically get Bartonella henselae from fleas. Other mammals that can carry the infection are guinea pigs, rabbits, and in some cases, dogs. In rare instances, humans can contract the bacteria that leads to the disease directly from fleas.
Whenever a cat or another infected animal scratches or bites hard enough to break the skin, bacteria can transmit to the bloodstream. An infected animal licking an open wound can also spread the infection.
Is There Any Way To Treat It?
Treating CSD varies based on the severity of someone’s condition. Many cases resolve on their own, but for those requiring treatment, antibiotic medication is typically used for five days. One of the frequently used antibiotics is azithromycin (Zithromax). Antibiotics are designed to eliminate harmful bacteria in the body.
Other antibiotics doctors may authorize are:
- Rifampicin (Rifampin)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra)
Passport Health offers a variety of vaccination and physical services to help you stay safe and healthy at home and abroad. Call 937-306-7541 or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by Shelbi Jackson. Shelbi is a freelance writer from Illinois. She enjoys writing about various topics from health care to music and book reviews. In her free time, you can find her at a live event, taking a stroll outside, or playing with the family dogs.