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Cat Scratch Disease Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection due to a cat scratch seen most often today in people with HIV. The disease characteristically presents with swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), sore throat, fatigue, and fever, chills, sweats, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. There is usually a little bump (a papule) which may be pus-filled (a pustule) at the site of the scratch. Then more nodules appear on and under the skin. As the number of nodules increases, patients get sicker. In normal people the disease is self-limited and usually goes away by itself in a few weeks.

Bartonella henselae is the bacterium that causes cat scratch disease, and it's found in all parts of the world. Cat scratch disease occurs more often in the fall and winter. In the U.S. about 22,000 cases are diagnosed annually, most of them in people under the age of 21.

Fleas spread the bacteria between cats, although currently there is no evidence that fleas can transmit the disease to humans. Once a cat is infected, the bacteria live in the animal's saliva. Bartonella henselae does not make a cat sick, and kittens or cats may carry the bacteria for months. Experts believe that almost half of all cats have a Bartonella henselae infection at some time in their lives, and cats less than one year old are more likely to be infected.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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