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Cat Scratch Disease

Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) is an infection caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria. In healthy people, it most often causes a swollen lymph node and mild illness. The domestic cat is the animal that carries the CSD bacteria, which are transmitted between cats by the cat flea. People can get CSD when they are bitten or scratched by a cat with a flea infestation. The feces of cat fleas contain the CSD bacteria. A person can become infected when the flea feces enter a break in the skin during a cat scratch or bite. Direct contact with cat fleas is unlikely to be a cause of infection. Infected cats usually do not look sick.

What can a person do to prevent CSD?

About 40 percent of cats carry the CSD bacteria at some time in their lives. However, young cats and kittens are more likely than older cats to be infected and pass the bacteria on to people. To prevent CSD, people should:

   • use flea control products on pets

   • wash hands after handling, petting, or playing with a cat

   • avoid rough play with cats (especially kittens)

   • adopt mature cats (one year of age or older)

Last modified on: 1/16/2015 4:49 PM