Last Updated: 10/05/2022
About Cat Scratch Disease (Bartonella)
- Cat Scratch Disease Fact Sheet
Answers to frequently asked questions about Cat Scratch Disease.
- Generally people who get CSD are bitten, scratched, or licked by a cat before they get sick.
- Fleas are responsible for transmitting B. henselae between cats.
- Because kittens are more likely to be infected than adult cats, they are more likely to transmit cat scratch disease to humans.
- 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 of CSD may include:
- swollen lymph nodes near the site of the bite or scratch
- 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.
- The duration of illness caused by B. henselae is usually 2 to 4 months with spontaneous recovery.
- Whether or not you have appropriate exposure history
- Symptoms that fit with CSD infections
- Blood test that can detect antibodies to B. henselae
- Supportive treatment
- Antibiotics may be used for severely ill patients to speed recovery
- 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