Cats are common domesticated pets for many Americans. They are relatively low-maintenance, can reside indoors or outdoors, and can provide the owners with benefits such as rodent extermination. While cats can be a joy for a large number of people, they can also pose a threat to people if they happen to be infected with any of a number of diseases.
Cat scratch disease, also known as cat scratch fever, is a disease that approximately 40% of all cats will carry in their systems at least once in their lives. This illness is actually a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae, and while it has no effect on cats, it can have serious effects in humans.
The bacteria are transferred from feline to feline through fleas, and it enters the human body through scratches or bites. Contact between cat saliva and either an open wound or the eyeball is also enough to transfer the disease from cat to human.
Once one has been infected with cat scratch disease, he or she will experience a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms that, if left untreated, will worsen over time. Typically, a bump or blister will first arise in the affected area of the dermis. The closest lymph nodes to the infection will also begin to swell and become irritated. Other symptoms include headache, fever, chills, nausea, and malaise.
While cat scratch disease typically is not very serious and is usually healed by the body’s immune system, serious cases can arise and may be treated by antibiotics. This disease is particularly dangerous to those with HIV/AIDS, and has been known to cause death in some of these patients.