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Cat scratch disease is a disease caused by bacteria that are often
carried by cats, especially kittens.
About a week after being scratched or bitten, your child may have
One to 4 weeks later, the bacteria travel to nearby lymph nodes,
usually in the armpit, groin or neck. The lymph nodes become large
lumps that are usually painful and may get red. Large lymph nodes
are the most typical feature of cat scratch disease.
The name of the bacterium that causes cat scratch disease is
Bartonella henselae. Cats get the disease from fleas. The
Bartonella bacteria does not cause the animal to act sick.
The bacteria are transmitted to humans through a cat scratch,
bite, or lick. Sometimes there is no obvious cause of infection
(for example, your child has no scratches and wasn't ever near a
cat). Rarely, the disease is spread by a dog or other animal.
Many children have the symptoms listed and will not need other
tests. However, there are other diseases that are similar to cat
scratch disease. Some children need to be tested for other
diseases before the healthcare provider can diagnose cat scratch
disease. To make a diagnosis, your healthcare provider may
recommend blood tests, tuberculosis tests, X-rays, or testing a
sample of fluid taken from the lumps.
Usually no treatment is needed and your child will get better
without medicine. Headache and fever can be treated with
acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Antibiotics may be given if severe
symptoms develop or if your child has an immune deficiency.
Your child cannot give the disease to anyone else. After having
cat scratch disease once, your child is very unlikely to ever get
Your child will be tired and have a loss of appetite usually for
less than 1 week. The swollen lymph glands will usually start to
get smaller in 2 months, but may not return to normal size for
About 1 in 50 people with cat scratch disease will have symptoms
that affect the nervous system. Symptoms may include seizures,
numbness and tingling, loss of muscle strength or problems with
the eyes. These symptoms get completely better with time. Rarely a
lymph node will form a tract to the skin and drain pus. Gradually
the large lumps will decrease in size. On other rare occasions,
the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.
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