Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection carried in cat saliva. It is passed from a cat bite or scratch to a human. It can also result from a fleabite, but cats are the main source.
Cat scratch disease is caused by the germ Bartonella henselae. The cat or kitten usually appears healthy. The cat licks its paws then scratches or bites the child. If your child rubs his or her eyes after petting a cat's fur, this can also spread cat scratch disease. Young kittens less than 1 year of age are more likely to scratch. The increases the risk for infection.
The following are the most common symptoms of cat scratch disease:
The symptoms of cat scratch disease may not appear for more than a week after the child is scratched. Sometimes the delay can be as long as 6 weeks. The symptoms may look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask whether your child has had exposure to cats or kittens. He or she will look for a small bump where the cat scratch has occurred. The provider will check for any swollen lymph nodes. Lab tests are available, but many tests are not considered reliable.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Cat scratch disease will usually go away without treatment. But your child may need to take antibiotic medicine.
Complications are not common. When they occur, they may include problems with the nervous system, body organs, or eyes.
Do not let your child play roughly with cats or kittens. Doing so can increase the chances of a scratch or bite. If your child does get a cat bite or scratch, wash the area right away with soap and water.
Cat owners should use products to prevent fleas.
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child develops swollen lymph nodes after being scratched or bitten by a cat.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: