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Cat Scratch Fever

Cat scratch fever, also called cat scratch disease (CSD), is a bacterial infection. It gets its name because people receive a bite or scratch from an infected cat. The cats are infected with Bartonella henselae bacteria, one of the most common bacterium.

Each year about 12,500 people, under the age of 65, are diagnosed with cat scratch fever in the US (Walden, 6.) It was most common in children from the ages of 5 to 9. Anyone who owns a cat, or interacts with a cat, is at risk for contracting cat scratch fever. There is an increased risk of becoming seriously ill if you have a weakened immune system. There are more diagnoses in January than any other time of the year. Doctors are not sure exactly why this happens.

Feline Symptoms

You can’t always tell if they are carriers. Cats contract the bacteria from infected fleas. There is no evidence that humans can contract it directly from fleas. According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria at some time in their lives. It is most commonly carried when they are kittens. Veterinarians can test to see if your cat is a carrier, but the bacteria is only carried for a short time.

Human Symptoms

Common symptoms of cat scratch fever include:

  • Bump or blister at the bite or scratch site

  • Swollen lymph nodes near the bite or scratch site

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Low-grade fever

Less common symptoms of cat scratch fever include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Sore throat

Antibiotics are used to treat serious cases of cat scratch fever and those with weakened immune systems. To reduce your risk of getting cat scratch fever avoid rough play that could lead to you being scratched or bitten. Some other ways to reduce it is by controlling fleas, washing your hands after handling your cat, and keep your cat indoors.


Walden, L. (2017). CDC report of cat scratch disease in the United States. Veterinary World News, p. 6.

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