About Bartonella (Cat Scratch Disease)

On this page:
Fact Sheet
Transmission
Symptoms
Duration
Diagnosis
Treatment
Prevention

Fact Sheet

Transmission

  • Generally people who get CSD are bitten or scratched by a cat before they get sick.
  • Fleas are responsible for transmitting B. henselae between cats.
  • Kittens are more likely to be infected and therefore able to pass the bacteria to humans than adult cats.
  • Cats are the natural reservoir for the bacteria that causes CSD, and generally do not show any signs of illness. Therefore it is impossible to know which cats can spread CSD to you.
  • It is believed that transmission to humans occurs through contamination of bites or scratches with flea excrement.
  • There is no human-to-human transmission of CSD.

Symptoms

Symptoms of CSD may include:

  • swollen lymph nodes near the site of the bite or scratch
  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • poor appetite
  • skin pustule often found at site of bite or scratch usually occurs 1 to 2 weeks before lymph nodes begin to swell

People with a weakened immune system due to disease or medication are more likely to have complications from CSD. These include:

  • Parinaud’s oculoglandular syndrome: eye infection that causes inflammation of the optic nerve and can lead to blindness
  • Bacillary angiomatosis: systemic illness characterized by lesions on the skin, mucosal surfaces, liver, spleen and other organs

Symptoms usually begin 3 to 14 days after being bitten or scratched by an infected feline.

Duration

  • The duration of illness caused by B. henselae is usually 2 to 4 months with spontaneous recovery.

Diagnosis

  • Whether or not you have appropriate exposure history
  • Symptoms that fit with CSD infections
  • Blood test that can detect antibodies to B. henselae

Treatment

  • Supportive treatment
  • Antibiotics may be used for severely ill patients to speed recovery

Prevention

  • Maintain excellent flea and tick control
  • Avoid rough play with cats
  • If you have an open wound do not allow a cat to lick it
  • Thoroughly wash the site of a bite or scratch with soap and water
  • Adopt or buy cats that are in good health and without fleas

Updated Tuesday, 16-Nov-2010 12:22:09 CST