Bartonella a.k.a. cat scratch disease: How to care for the cat
by Kris Newby, Invisible International
If a person is diagnosed with cat scratch disease, what should be done with the pet cat that transmitted the disease through a bite or scratch?
A recent publication in the American Journal of Ophthalmology provides guidance on this conundrum, presenting five clinical scenarios with remediation recommendations.
The article starts with a fascinating case study about a 10-year-old boy who was experiencing reduced vision in the right eye. An ophthalmic examination revealed trapped fluid around the optic nerve and retina, consistent with a diagnosis of neuroretinitis.
Blood antibody testing supported a diagnosis of Bartonella henselae neuroretinitis, caused by a tiny bacterium that causes cat scratch disease. A patient history revealed that the family recently adopted three kittens that had scratched the boy and his younger sister, possibly infecting both. This left the ophthalmologist and the family with an uncomfortable question of what should be done with the kittens.
Cat scratch disease, caused by a Bartonella henselae infection, can be transmitted by fleas or animal bites. It typically starts with a fever and swelling or lesions at the wound site, appearing three to 10 days after the bite or scratch. Swollen lymph nodes may manifest one to two weeks later. Half of patients report headaches, lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and, occasionally, eye problems.
“One Health” Strategy
Co-author Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, a leading expert on bartonellosis in mammals, presents a One Health strategy in managing these situations, taking animals, humans, and their shared environment into account to optimize health outcomes for all. Together, the article’s authors developed five cat scratch disease scenarios and proposed remediation steps, all supported by recent findings in the veterinary literature.
In a nutshell, their recommendations are:
- Eradicate fleas from pets and keep them away from wild animals.
- Minimize human exposure to stray or poorly cared for animals.
- When an animal bite or scratch occurs, immediately clean it with warm, soapy water.
- When humans are infected, treat all family pets, because animals harboring Bartonella bacteria may not exhibit symptoms but may reinfect family members.
Invisible International offers a series of free accredited medical education courses on Bartonella presented by Dr. Breitschwerdt. These include:
- History of a hidden pandemic
- Vectors and other modes of transmission
- Reservoir hosts: Bats, cats, dogs, mice and men
- Comparative infectious disease causation
- Disease expression and host immunity
- Diagnosis of Bartonella species infections.
Kris Newby is Communications Director of Invisible International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to reducing suffering from invisible illnesses.