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Cat Scratch Disease (CSD or Cat Scratch Fever)

Cat Scratch Disease Facts

Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a syndrome that begins usually with red, tender papules or pustules at a site where a pet cat (usually a kitten) has scratched, licked, or superficially bitten a person that later progresses to painful regional lymph nodes (which may be felt as small bumps under the skin) over one to three weeks. A significant percentage of affected patients develop a low-grade fever (about 101 F). A few investigators suggest fleas on cats may also transmit the disease under special circumstances (for example, crushed cat flea materials get into a skin break).

Although H. Parinaud described this condition in 1889, R. Debre in 1931 was the first to describe cats as vectors (carriers) of the disease and termed the condition as cat scratch disease. Most cases occur in the fall and winter months. Investigators speculate this timing may be due to the usual high number of midsummer kitten births. The bacteria responsible for the disease are Bartonella henselae; recently, two other organisms (Afipia felis and Bartonella clarridgeiae) have also been implicated in producing CSD, but investigators are still gathering data to prove this. CSD is not transmitted from person to person.

Many cases of cat scratch disease are not reported because the symptoms are often mild and the disease is self-limiting. Studies support that the disease is quite common, with a majority of cases occurring in people under 21 years of age. The studies found that many people have antibodies to Bartonella henselae, the bacteria that cause this disease. Having antibodies to a disease is called being seropositive and suggests a previous infection. Bartonellosis is termed an infectious disease produced by the bacteria of the genus Bartonella. Cat scratch disease, trench fever, and Carrión's disease are specific subsets of bartonellosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/28/2016

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Cat Scratch Disease Symptoms & Signs

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes may signal an infection. There are several groups of lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped, soft nodules of tissue. The ones most frequently enlarged or swollen are found in the neck (a chain of lymph nodes is located in the front of the neck, the sides of the neck, and the back of the neck behind the ears), under the chin, in the armpits, and in the groin. There is also a large group of lymph nodes in the chest and abdomen, which are sometimes found to be enlarged on X-rays or CT scans.

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