Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), also known as cat scratch fever, is a disease caused by bacterial infection that begins with red bumps at the area cat has scratched, licked, or bitten that progressed to painful swollen lymph nodes. Cat scratch disease’s symptom usually comes with low grade fever. It is caused by bacteria called Bartonella henselae, carried by cats. People who previously infected by this bacterium usually get antibodies to the bacteria. Bartonella henselae can also be transmitted by flea. Kitten younger than 1 year is more likely to have Bartonella henselae on it. Research say that 40% of cats carry Bartonella henselae at some point in their life. It still questionable if the disease can be transmitted between humans, but there is almost no sign of it.
The symptoms are often mild and the disease is self-limiting. It starts by the formation of bumps or pustules on the area where the cat scratched, bitten, or licked, which progressed to swollen lymph nodes, usually in the under arms, neck, or groin regions, in several weeks. These swollen lymph nodes or lymphadenitis usually painful and may rupture and leak pus discharge. These symptoms and mild fever are the most common symptoms of cat scratch disease, while there may be other uncommon symptoms such as rash, headache, loss of appetite, sore throat, malaise, joint pain, etc.
The diagnosis of the disease is made by history taking and clinical symptoms. Sometimes we may also need to do blood test. Since the cat scratch disease is not a serious disease, medical treatment often may not be needed to healthy or non-immunocompromised people. Still, there is some simple treatment we can do if we got cat scratch disease, such as treat the wound, relief the symptoms, and boost our immune systems to promote healing process and prevent infection. So here are some treatments for cat scratch disease on human.
1. Wound care
The first treatments for cat scratch disease on human is to treat the wound caused by the cat scratch immediately. Wash the wound with running water and soap to keep the wound clean and prevent for any infection. Cat scratch disease often treated without antibiotics since it is self-limiting and rarely result in complications in healthy people. You may use honey on the wound. It can help kill germs and protect the wound from germs, it also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apply a thin layer of real honey on the wound. If the wound bleeding, we may apply a pressure with clean and dry gauze pad. Wounds in hands and feet are more prone to infections. Scratch can also make cosmetic damage by the form of scarring if not treated properly. A scratch near eyes needs immediate care, ask help from physician immediately. An over counter antibiotic ointment can also be applied to the wound. Pay attention to wound healing process, if there is any sign of infection or the wound doesn’t heal properly, seek a help from physician. Sign of infection include redness and warm, swelling, pain, or pus drainage in the area.
Note that a bite from cat can result in more severe infection caused by another bacteria and should be treated in 48 hours. If it is happened, the pain and swelling at the bite area will develop rapidly than in the cat scratch disease. About 80% of cat bites become infected, that’s why it needs to be treated with antibiotics. Immunosuppressed patient, such as those with diabetes, HIV or AIDS, and cancer, must get immediate and proper treatment from medic. They usually need antibiotic treatment since their immune systems may not be able to fight the bacteria properly, unlike in the healthy person.
Antibiotic azazithromycin usually used to decrease swollen lymph nodes quickly, another antibiotic that can be used to cat scratch disease in immunocompromised person are ciprofloxacin, rifampin, tetracycline, or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Amoxicilin usually can’t be used since Bartonella henselae is resistant to this type of antibiotic. Healthy people also need go to the physician if he or she develops more severe symptoms, high fever, and swollen or painful lymph nodes.
2. Relief the symptoms
The cat scratch disease may give us pain and fever which can be discomfort to us. To relief the pain and fever, we can take pain relief drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You may need to pay attention to the use of the drugs if you have other disease. The swollen lymph nodes can also give discomfort to us. We can relief the swollen lymph nodes by warm compresses of the area periodically.
3. Boost immune systems
The last treatments for cat scratch disease on human is to boost our immune systems. There are several natural foods, herbs, or essential oils that can strengthen your immune system and help our body to fight infection such as lavender oil, tea tree oil, olive leaf extract, colloidal silver, probiotics, golden seal, Echinacea, etc.
Although it is rare for cat scratch disease to have complication, there are still some cases of it and most of it found in immunocompromised patients. Complication of cat scratch disease usually affect other organ system such as brain infection (encephalopathy), pneumonia, endocarditis, neuroretinitis (eye inflammation), otic neuralgia (hearing loss), hepatitis, osteomyelitis (infection to bone), etc. People infected with cat scratch disease usually need to do follow up session several months after the time they get the disease.
However, if the symptoms do not resolve or get worse, we must contact the physician immediately. Immunocompromised patient with cat scratch disease need regular follow up to check if the treatment work well or there is a need to be hospitalized. The prognosis of both healthy and immunocompromised cat scratch disease patients is very good. There is still no vaccine available to prevent cat scratch disease. Cats with Bartonella henselae cannot be distinguished between the one that aren’t, but the stray cat have higher possibility to carry it, so we recommended not to pet with stray cat. Be careful not to get cat scratch or bite, never let the cat lick our open wound, face, or near eyes area. Always wash our hands after playing with cats. To cat owner, we need to do regular flea control to the cat.