Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch disease is an infection seen following the bite, scratch or lick from a cat. It is caused by the bacteria bartonella hensela. It starts as a small scratch or pimple like lesion with subsequent swelling of lymph nodes.

Where does it occur?

I t occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by the bite, scratch or lick of a cat on an open wound.

Is it contagious from person to person?


What is the risk for travelers?

Generally low.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms are usually seen 1-2 weeks after trauma, with the development of a small reddish nodule that may form an ulcer and up to 4-6 weeks to see enlarged lymph nodes.

What are the signs and symptoms?

One usually sees a reddish nodule at the site of trauma which may form an ulcer. Later one experiences painful, enlarged lymph nodes in the region of the affected limb (usually the armpit). Low grade fever is also common.

Rarely the bacteria can spread through the blood stream to the bone, liver, spleen and nervous system with symptoms of bone pain, abdominal pain and headaches, confusion, agitation etc respectively.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Bacteria can be cultured with difficulty from affected lymph nodes or detected by the PCR method.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like azithromycin and ciprofloxacin are effective.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid exposure to wild or domestic cats while traveling.

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