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Fleas and Cat Scratch Disease

Feline Bartonellosis and Cat Scratch Disease (CSD)

Contrary to what the name evokes, "cat scratch disease" affects man much more than cats. It is due to a bacterium that can be inoculated when a cat scratches (or bites) someone. The lesions caused cats' claws and sharp teeth are difficult to disinfect because they are narrow and deep.

Fleas play a major role in the transmission of the agent responsible for "cat" scratch disease.


No Apparent Sign in Cats

The other name for "cat" scratch disease is bartonellosis: the agents responsible for the disease are indeed bartonelles and, in infected cats, these bacteria live inside the red blood cells. Young cats and stray cats are the most important "tanks" of bartonelles.

A flea can absorb bartonelles when it bites an infected cat and then transmit them to another cat if it changes host. About 30% of flea-infested cats carry this bacteria! The greatest risk of cat's scratch disease in humans occurs when we are in contact with flea-carrying kittens.


A disease which is not always benign

In cats, the infection does not usually cause any particular symptom, except for a transient fever and sometimes abortion in pregnant queens. In humans, on the other hand, the disease should be suspected when, 3 to 10 days after a cat scratch or a cat bite, a red vesicle develops on the area of the inoculation, often with pus inside, associated with regional lymphadenopathy, abscess formation and possibly fever. These non-complicated cases are often self-limited.

Immunocompetent patients usually suffer from the classical form of cat scratch disease (CSD) with pustule formation at the infection site, regional lymphadenopathy, abscess formation and possible fever. Most cases of uncomplicated CSD are self-limiting but may last for months until complete resolution. This disease syndrome responds only minimally or not at all to antimicrobial therapy. The course of disease is much more complicated in immunocompromised patients and children. Bacillary peliosis, bacillary angiomatosis, endocarditis (heart muscle inflammation), retinitis (retina inflammation) and encephalopathies can develop. In such cases, antimicrobial therapy is indicated and generally effective.

When the diagnosis is made quickly, cat's scratch disease is treated relatively easily, if necessary with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Don't forget to talk your doctor about a cat bite or scratch in the next weeks or months, before symptoms appear.


Prevention of cat's scratch disease

We should always wash our hands after we have stroked or played with a cat. This is a basic precaution against the risk of potential bacterial contamination.

We should also avoid being scratched or bitten by a cat! This evidence should be reminded to children who must learn to respect the cat. Don't wake hi up when he is sleeping!


Note: Always treat your cat against fleas, respecting the practical recommendations for the administration and the periodicity of treatments. Not only will you improve your cat's well-being by avoiding unnecessary itching, but you will also limit the likelihood that it will be contaminated by the cat's scratch disease agent.



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