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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Cat scratch disease


Other Names for this Disease
  • Bartonellosis due to Bartonella henselae infection
  • Cat scratch fever
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Your Question

What are the symptoms of cat scratch disease?

Our Answer

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What is cat scratch disease?

Cat scratch disease is an infectious illness caused by the bacteria bartonella (Bartonella henselae). It is believed to be transmitted by cat scratches, bites, or exposure to cat saliva.[1] This self-limiting infectious disease is characterized by a bump or blister at the site of the bite or scratch and swelling and pain in the lymph nodes. Other features may include fatigue, headache, achiness, and fever. Although cat-scratch disease usually subsides without treatment, antibiotic and/or antimicrobial therapy may help speed recovery.[2]
Last updated: 7/20/2016

What are the signs and symptoms of cat scratch disease?

Most people with cat scratch disease have been bitten or scratched by a cat and develop a mild infection at the point of injury within about 3-14 days. The infected area may be warm and painful and may appear appear swollen and red with round, raised lesions. Lymph nodes, especially those around the head, neck, and upper limbs, become swollen.[3] Additionally, a person with cat scratch disease may experience fever, headache, fatigue, achiness and discomfort (malaise), sore throat, enlarged spleen, and/or loss of appetite.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 7/19/2016

What complications may be associated with cat scratch disease?

Rare complications of Bartonella henselae infection may include inflammation of the brain (encephalopathy), inflammation of the retina and optic nerve of the eye (neuroretinitis), and acute or chronic bone infection (osteomyelitis). A systemic illness characterized by lesions throughout the body (bacillary angiomatosis) and an eye problem similar to pink eye (Parinaud oculoglandular syndrome) may also occur.[1][3] 

People with immunocompromised conditions, such as those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments for cancer, organ transplant patients, and people with HIV/AIDS, are more likely than others to have complications of cat scratch disease.[3]
Last updated: 7/20/2016

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Bartonellosis due to Bartonella henselae infection
  • Cat scratch fever
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.