Cat scratches and bites can cause cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection carried in cat saliva. Research suggests a cat may get these bacteria from fleas. The bacteria are passed from an infected cat to a human after the cat licks an open wound or bites or scratches human skin hard enough to break the surface of the skin. Kittens younger than one year of age are more likely to scratch, increasing the likelihood of infection.
Cat scratch disease is caused by a bacterium carried in the cat saliva. The bacteria are passed from an infected cat to a human after the cat licks an open wound or bites or scratches human skin hard enough to break the surface of the skin.
Factors that can increase your risk for getting cat scratch disease include:
These are the most common symptoms of cat scratch disease:
The symptoms of cat scratch disease may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis is based on a complete history, including a history of being scratched by a cat or kitten, a physical exam, and sometimes blood tests.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Treatment may include:
Most healthy people don’t have complications from cat scratch fever. However, people whose immune systems are weak (such as those who have HIV/AIDS, are receiving chemotherapy, or have diabetes) can have complications such as:
Avoid being scratched or bitten by cats or kittens. If scratched or bitten, wash the area right away with soap and water. Do not allow cats to lick wounds you may have.
If a cat scratch or bite becomes red or swollen and you develop flu-like symptoms, including headache, decreased appetite, fatigue, joint pain, or fever, contact your healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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