Playing with a kitty is a pastime not many people would turn down. We seldom consider that a roly-poly kitten could be a carrier of serious diseases, but unfortunately many do. Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), or Cat Scratch Fever, is an infection spread through bacteria found in cat’s saliva, blood and nails through a bacteria known as Bartonella henselae or B. henselae.
The disease causing B. henselae may be transmitted from flea bites and flea droppings that get into a cat’s blood or saliva through open wounds, or from fighting with other cats who might carry the bacteria. If a cat has fleas, he will scratch or bite the fur, and pick up B. henselae left from the flea droppings, which then fester under the cat’s nails and in his saliva. If a pet owner plays with or hand-wrestles his cat, and the kitten chomps on him or scratches deeply enough to puncture the skin, the disease could be transmitted. This can also occur if the cat licks or “grooms” someone and makes contact with a pre-existing wound, such as a scrape or scab.
Kittens less than a year old are most likely to get infected, as they are prone to scratching and biting while at play. Roughly 40% of cats become disease carriers some time in their life, even though no signs of the bacteria may be evident
Just as felines can carry the B. henselae bacteria without exhibiting signs, a human infected with Cat Scratch Disease may not show any symptoms for as long as 14 days after the incident. Thereafter, the diseased wound may swell up, become red, or even have a bump or lesions emitting pus. Other symptoms include:
- blisters by the wound
- swollen lymph nodes
- mild fever (Some patients may complain of a sore throat, loss of appetite, or may suffer weight loss.)
If you suspect you may be infected with CSD, they will examine the size of your spleen, coupled with an indirect fluorescent antibody blood test (known as an IFA) to determine whether or not the bacteria is present in the individual’s body. The doctor will then prescribe treatments and suggest prevention tips.