Infections resulting from cat bites, scratches, and licks are dangerous, but they can be prevented.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found catch-scratch fever to be on the rise. The disease is caused by the Bartonella henselae bacteria, transmitted from flea to cat to human.
Not all cats have fleas, and not all fleas carry the bacteria. But when infected, the disease affects both felines and their owners.
The bacteria is spread to humans through open wounds and contact with an infected cat, most often through a cat bite or scratch or from a kitty licking an owner’s open sore.
Thorough hand-washing after interacting with cats and especially monitoring cleanliness and contact with open wounds can prevent transmission. Flea prevention also goes a long way.
Cat-scratch fever affects 12,000 people annually, according to the CDC. The disease can result in a fever and headache as well as lymph node inflammation. In severe cases, the bacteria can travel to the heart and brain. Only about 500 cases lead to a hospital visit every year, but those numbers are increasing.
While the disease is serious and on the rise, it is preventable with proper cat care and human hygiene.