Cat scratch fever is something most people have heard of, but could not describe it if asked. Cat scratch fever is more commonly called cat scratch disease (CSD) in the medical field, or it may be referred to by its scientific name, Bartonella henselae. CSD is a bacterial infection thought to be found in the feces of infected fleas and spread when the cat scratches her self and then scratches a human. When the cat scratches herself, the infected flea feces may get on the claw into the tiny crevices and in the sheath of the claw and then when that cat scratches a human, the bacteria are transferred into the open wound the scratch created. Washing any cat scratches and bites promptly with warm water and anti-bacterial soap reduces the likelihood of human infection. The human symptoms include site infection (swelling, redness, puss, tenderness of the surrounding skin), fever, headache, fatigue, skin eruptions, swollen and painful lymph nodes and weight loss. Very rarely will a CSD infection become more severe, but there have been cases such as spleen enlargement and heart valve infection. People who's immune systems are compromised are more likely to experience severe complications than healthy individuals.
Approximately 40% of cats are believed to carry CSD at one point in their lives. Carriers of Bartonella henselae usually show no clinical signs. There is no one test that truly diagnoses a cat with CSD, but there are some oral medications that can be administered if it is believed the cat is carrying CSD. These oral medications are not always effective.
To reduce the likelihood of your cat being a carrier and you getting CSD from your cat there are a few basic rules of thumb to adhere to. Use a flea preventative, comb your cat for fleas as often as necessary, keep your cat indoors to reduce his exposure to fleas, don't rough play with your cat, keep her claws trimmed, wash any scratches and bites promptly and don't let your cat lick at any open wounds.