Cat Scratch Disease

Also known as: cat-scratch disease, CSD, cat scratch fever, bartonella infection.

What is cat scratch disease?

As the name implies, cat scratch disease is an infection that occurs after being scratched or bitten by a cat or fleas that were on a cat.

What causes cat scratch disease?

Cat scratch disease is caused by bacteria known as Bartonella henselae. Both cats and the fleas on cats can be carriers and transmitters of the bacteria. The most common risk factor is direct contact with young kittens but many children and/or their parents with the infection do not recollect contact with cats.

What are the symptoms of cat scratch disease?

The first signs of cat scratch disease is a bump or blister where the injury occurred. This is followed by fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, loss of appetite, sore throat and weight loss. The affected lymph node is close to the area of the scratch (for example scratch in the arm result in enlarged lymph nodes in the axilla and scratch on the face results in enlarged lymph nodes in the neck).

In some cases the infection can become spread far away from the initial foci of entry and invade the bones or the heart.

What are cat scratch disease care options?

Most cases of cat scratch disease are not serious and resolve on their own. Treatment consist of antibiotics and sometimes drainage of the affected lymph node. Unlike injuries caused by cat bites which do benefit from antibiotics to prevent or minimize infections, antibiotics are not indicated to prevent CSD in those children who had suffered a scratch but the parents should remain vigilant and consult in case they see development of swollen nodes close to the area of the scratch.

Reviewed by: P. Marcelo Laufer, MD

This page was last updated on: November 18, 2021 10:05 AM

Infectious Diseases

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