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Cat Scratch Disease


Cat-scratch disease is a bacterial infection caused by the scratch or bite of a cat, usually a kitten (under the age of 12 months). The bacteria responsible for most cases is Bartonella henselae. The most common signs and symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes in the area near the initial scratch and prolonged fever.

Rarely, encephalitis may occur and should be treated with antibiotics either intramuscularly or intravenously. Most cases are in people under the age of 21 years. Diagnosis is by blood test. Treatment for milder cases is controversial–whether or not to treat with antibiotics. Some experts advocate treatment with an oral antibiotic such as Bactrim or Zithromax. Most affected people will have a benign course that will resolve in less than 2 weeks, although enlarged lymph nodes may take weeks to months to resolve completely.

Common questions regarding cat-scratch disease:

Is this cat-scratch disease contagious?

No, cat-scratch disease is not known to pass from person to person.

Should we get rid of the cat?

No. This is not necessary. The kittens are otherwise healthy and the ability for the kitten to transmit the bacteria is transient.