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Cat Scratch Fever

(Cat Scratch Disease)

Definition

Cat scratch fever is an infection from the scratch or bite of a cat, kitten, or sometimes a dog. This usually goes away without treatment, but it can become a serious condition that requires care from your doctor.

Causes    TOP

The bacteria that causes cat scratch fever are found in fleas. They are passed on to cats through flea bites. They are passed on to humans through a cat scratch or bite.

Risk Factors    TOP

The most common risk factor is being bitten or scratched by a cat or kitten.

Symptoms    TOP

Cat scratch fever may cause:

  • A crusting sore or blister that forms over the site of a cat scratch or bite
  • Swollen, painful lymph nodes
  • Low fever
  • Flu-like symptoms such as weakness, nausea, chills, loss of appetite, and body aches

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Some people may develop complications such as a very high fever or pneumonia. Severe cases have caused infections of the brain ( encephalitis), hepatitis, and even death.

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If you remember that you were bitten or scratched by a cat, your doctor may be able to diagnose the disease based your symptoms. Your doctor may want a blood test if the diagnosis is not clear.

Treatment    TOP

Cat-scratch fever usually clears up without treatment. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Antibiotics—If your doctor feels it is necessary, antibiotics can be prescribed to help prevent worsening infection or the spread of the infection to other parts of the body. This may be used especially if you are very ill or you have a weakened immune system.
  • Lymph node drainage—If a lymph node is very swollen or very painful, your doctor may drain it to help it heal and to relieve pain. To do this, your doctor will put a needle into the swollen node. Fluid inside the node will drain out through the needle.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chances of cat scratch fever:

  • Keep your pets free of fleas.
  • Immediately wash any bites with soap and water.
  • Avoid situations when you may be scratched or bitten by a cat or a dog.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
https://www.canadianveterinarians.net

References:

Cat-scratch disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html. Updated April 30, 2014. Accessed December 6, 2017.
Cat-scratch disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115241/Cat-scratch-disease. Updated August 24, 2017. Accessed December 6, 2017.
Klotz SA, Ianas V, Elliott SP. Cat-scratch disease. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(2):152-155.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

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