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Cat-Scratch Fever

Cat-Scratch Fever

Posted by Patricia on 22nd May 2022

If you don't remember who wrote and performed "Cat Scratch Fever," you're forgiven. However, if you have cats or are around other cats, you need to learn a few things about a severe disease with the same name.

What causes cat-scratch fever?

Also known as cat-scratch disease (CSD), a cat can be infected with a bacteria called "bartonella henselae" from a flea bite in kittenhood and eventually pass it along to humans. So if a cat infected with CSD licks an area on your body with broken skin, scratches, or bites you, don't blow it off as kitty being grumpy. Remember, a cat's mouth isn't sterile, and his saliva could make you worse. Interestingly, cats infected with this bacteria don't usually show any symptoms.

How do you know if you have CSD?

See your doctor if you've come into contact with an infected feline and start having symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It can take up to 10 days for CSD to manifest, and the symptoms mimic other conditions, so don't delay a diagnosis. Sometimes cat scratch can cause swelling of the brain or heart, at which stage it can be fatal. Most of the time, medical treatment will involve treating the fever, pain, and swollen nodes and letting CSD go away on its own. However, if it lingers or gets worse, your physician will probably want to put you on a regime of antibiotics.

How to avoid CSD

CSD is found primarily in hot, humid areas of the country and in families with cats - and children. Surprisingly, CSD is also found in dogs and other animals. Since fleas are the culprit, keeping your home and felines flea-free can help avoid an occurrence in your family's human or canine members. Many products on the market repel fleas, offer prevention, and are far less expensive than the discomfort if someone catches them. Also, make sure your child knows how to interact safely with cats to avoid bites and scratches.

A fascinating bit of history about cat-scratch fever: Dr. Robert Debre, a French physician, is credited with making the first diagnosis in 1931. His patient was a 10-year-old boy with swollen lymph glands falsely thought to have contracted tuberculosis.


Cat Scratch Fever

Cat-Scratch Disease in the United States, 2005-2013