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Cat Scratch Disease

Cat Scratch Disease is not a reportable disease in Oklahoma; however, the Oklahoma State Department of Health investigates outbreaks of Cat Scratch Disease to control the spread of this disease.  Though a couple types of bacteria are thought to cause the disease, Bartonella henselae is considered to be the primary cause of Cat Scratch Disease.  Most persons who develop Cat Scratch Disease first have a red nodule present at the sit of a bite, scratch, or lick from a cat.  This is generally accompanied by a fever, headache, muscle soreness, and fatigue.  Within two weeks, a lymph node in the area of the bite or scratch becomes very swollen and painful and may ulcerate and drain fluid.  Although uncomfortable, most cases will resolve without specific medical treatment in four to six weeks.  However, in persons with severe immune deficiencies, particularly HIV infection, the disease can be severe and even fatal.  Disease complications in the immunosuppressed include systemic infection and conditions affecting the liver, spleen, or skin.

Most cats that are infected with Bartonella henselae have no symptoms of illness.  Cats less than a year of age and infested with fleas are the most likely animal to carry B. henselae.  The bacteria appear to be spread from cat to cat by fleas.

How to prevent Cat Scratch Disease:

  • Protection from cat scratches, bites, and contact of open wounds with cat saliva is the best way to avoid this illness.
  • If a bite or scratch occurs, rapid and thorough cleansing of the wound with a soap or disinfectant may be preventative.
  • Cat owners are encouraged to keep their pets indoors and practice good flea control.  Trimming nails or declawing may also help to decrease the risk of scratches and subsequent exposure to Bartonella henselae.

Cat Scratch Disease Fact Sheets and Information:

Cat Scratch Disease Fact Sheet (41k.pdf)

External Cat Scratch Disease Resources:

Article Describing the Identification of the Causative Agent
Cat Scratch Disease and Your Pets

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