Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) is a bacterial disease caused by Bartonella henselae. Most people get it by playing with cats or kittens and get bitten or scratched by them. They develop a mild infection at the place of injury. The lymph nodes, especially around the head, neck and upper limbs, become swollen.

A person with cat scratch disease may experience fever, headaches, fatigue, chills, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite and inflammation and soreness of the lymph nodes (lymphadenitis). As the disease progresses more bumps may develop under the skin where the injury took place

Sometimes an infected lymph node may form a tunnel or fistula through the skin and drain out the fluid. Less common symptoms include:

Basics About This Disease

Bartonella henselae, the bacterium that causes Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) is found in places all over the world. More than 90% of the people that get this bacterium got it from close contact with cats or kittens. No one knows exactly how cats get this infection. This bacterium has been found in fleas and many experts believe that cats acquire it from them.

Testing For CSD

Usually, CSD is not serious. The disease often goes unrecognized because of the difficulty in testing for it. However, the IFA Bartonella Henselae Test is highly accurate in identifying infection by this type of bacteria.

People with suppressed immune systems like HIV/AIDS patients or chemotherapy for cancer patients are affected more and our recommended to get antibiotics such as azithromycin. People with normal immune systems usually recover without treatment.

Another Bacterial Infection – MRSA Infection

Preventing This Disease

The number one way to prevent getting cat scratch disease is to avoid being around cats. For cat owners and lovers, this isn’t an ideal choice so preventive action will be necessary. The following are some recommendations:

  1. Immediately treat your cat for fleas if fleas are a problem.
  2. After touching your cat or kitten, wash hands with warm soapy water.
  3. Avoid being scratched or bitten. This one might seem obvious (who actually tries to get bitten or scratched), it more about having awareness of known the signs of your cat when it is about to become irritated.
  4. Don’t allow the cat to lick any open wounds. The bacteria may be in its saliva.
  5. Avoid rubbing eyes after touching the cat.

Most of these preventive recommendations are known but just being aware of them may help prevent this disease to spread.

Kittens Transmitting This Infection

Kittens are more likely to carry the bacteria and transmit the infection to humans. About 40% of cats carry this bacterium in their saliva at some point in their lifetime. In the United States alone about 22,000 cases are diagnosed annually, most often in the fall and winter seasons and usually in children, because they are more likely than adults to play with kittens and cats and are more easily bitten or scratched.


Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) isn’t normally a concern for most people until it happens and even then most people won’t even know about it if they do have it. This is because for someone with a strong immune system recovery can happen without treatment. However, someone with a weakened immune system can have some severe problems with this disease.