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C2008-39

Dear Christopher Cat

My daughter developed a rash, fever and swollen lymph nodes. Her pediatrician diagnosed cat scratch disease and prescribed an antibiotic. How can we prevent another episode?

Christopher Responds

Cat scratch disease is caused by bacteria called Bartonella henselae.

These bacteria are thought to be carried from cat to cat by fleas. Forty percent of us cats are infected at some time during our lives.

Fortunately, the bacteria don’t make us sick.

However, when an infected cat scratches, licks or bites a human, the person can develop cat scratch disease three to 10 days later.

The symptoms range from mild to severe. People with compromised immune systems may develop a more serious form of the disease than your daughter had.

To prevent cat scratch disease, control fleas and keep your cat indoors, away from outside cats that might be infected.

Keep your cat’s claws trimmed, and don’t let the children roughhouse with her, because rough play invariably leads to scratches and bites.

If someone does get scratched or bitten, immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.

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