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Cat scratch disease


Cat scratch disease, or benign lymphoreticulosis, is an infectious disease. It occurs at any age, but mostly in children who are victims to cat scratches. It is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae, found in the soil, that enters the body through a small skin wound, often from a bite or a cat scratch, hence its name. It results in an inflammation of the lymph nodes above the affected area: it is often the lymph nodes in the armpit or neck, secondary to an injury of the hand or arm of the child who is stroking a cat.


The symptoms of cat scratch disease are:
  • one or many swollen glands and sores on one side of the body and on a single limb;
  • skin trauma that develops slowly;
  • fatigue and loss of appetite;
  • moderate fever;
  • headache;
  • abdominal pain occasionally;
  • rarely, conjunctivitis.


The diagnosis of cat scratch disease is made in the presence of these clinical signs, coupled with a contact with a cat of some kind in the previous month. The presence of a cat in the patient's regular environment reinforces the clinical suspicion. In case of doubt, a blood test with serology study may help confirm the diagnosis. Very rarely, a biopsy of a lymph node is needed for diagnostic confirmation.


Cat scratch disease heals spontaneously and is very mundane, hence the lack of need for treatment. However, an antibiotic can sometimes be used, which is the case in people whose immune defenses are weakened. The lymph nodes may remain inflamed for two or three months.


To prevent cat scratch disease, avoid scratches or bites and disinfect immediately if they do happen. One should take precautions by washing his hands with soap and water after touching a cat and by taking care of the latter by treating against fleas. It is not advisable to deprive children of the company of a cat, as they develop a natural immunity by being in contact with the animal.

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