The disease can occur anywhere. Worldwide, the disease affects 9 out of every 100,000 people each year. Multiple cases within families are common, especially among brothers and sisters who have the same pet cat. Over 80% of cases affect children and young people under the age of 21.
A cat with the infection does not look sick, and the animal can carry the infectious bacteria in its blood for several months. It is believed that up to 44% of cats have the infection at some time in their lives.
Cat-scratch disease (cat-scratch fever) is an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes (swollen glands) after an animal scratch.
It usually takes 3-10 days for a blister to appear at the site of a cat scratch. Lymph node swelling usually begins about 2 weeks after the cat scratch, with a range of 7-60 days.
How it is spread
Most cases of this disease have some apparent sign of a recent scratch or bite from an animal. The disease can be contracted from other animals, but cats are commonly responsible. Scratches, bites or licking a person's broken skin may introduce the bacterium.
Teach children to avoid stray or 'strange' cats.
If scratched or bitten by a cat or other animal - even a household pet - wash the injured area thoroughly with soap and water.
Some doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat the disease. Non-prescription medicines will relieve the pain of swollen lymph nodes and lower a fever.
A child with cat-scratch disease does not need to be isolated from other family members. Bed rest is not necessary.
- Last reviewed: 1 Jul 2016
- Last updated: 1 Jul 2016