Cat Scratch Disease- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Cat Scratch Disease- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Cat scratch disease is caused by an infection with the intercellular bacteria Bartona henselae (causing Bartonellosis), which is transmitted from a cat to a human through a scratch or a bite. Although the disease can become disseminated and cause other severe symptoms, but the common symptoms include a papular skin lesion, regional lymphadenopathy and fever. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and the diagnosis is performed through serology, PCR or lymph node biopsy methods. 


Cat-scratch disease is caused by bacteria which cats carry in their saliva. Mostly cats get them from fleas. They then spread it to their fur or paws when they lick themselves. You can get cat-scratch disease from a cat licking, scratching or biting you. You can even get the bacteria in your eyes if you rub them after you pet a cat that has the bacteria on its fur. Many people who have cat-scratch disease don’t remember being scratched or bitten by a cat.


For most people, swollen lymph nodes are the only symptom. However, other symptoms that might occur include:

  • a headache
  • joint pain
  • a rash
  • a sore throat
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • fever, typically not above 102°F
  • tiredness

A person should see a doctor if they have a scratch that keeps growing after 2 days.


Treatment of uncomplicated cat-scratch disease is still controversial. Because it is a benign and self-limiting condition, with most cases of regional lymphadenopathy spontaneously resolved within two to four months, no specific treatment is usually needed. Nevertheless, some studies indicate that certain antibiotics, including doxycycline, erythromycin, gentamicin, rifampicin, trimethoprim + sulphamethoxazole and ciprofloxacin, can significantly shorten the duration of lymphadenopathy. Antibiotics are required in patients with serious or recurrent cat-scratch disease symptoms.

In rare cases, large pus-filled lymph nodes can last for one to three years. The pus can need to be drained through the needle repeatedly. Pressure and fever can be treated by increasing the intake of fluid and paracetamol. Warm moist compresses to infected lymph glands can reduce swelling and tenderness.


Cat scratch disease isn’t infectious from person to person. The bacteria are transmitted by scratching or chewing the infected animal, most of the time a kitten. They may also spread if the animal’s saliva (spit) comes into contact with the person’s eye or through broken skin. Often several cases occur in the same family, usually through contact with the same infected animal.


Danny white

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