How dangerous is felinosis: cat scratch disease
Cat scratch disease (felinosis), has a second name – Cat scratch fever or bartonellosis. Caused by a bacterial infection that comes to humans through cat scratching.
There are at least 8 species of Bartonella that cause human disease, while Bartonella henselae – is the most common type of infection found in cats. Cat scratch disease can affect humans, dogs, cats, and other animals. The disease got its name because it is often associated with cat scratch.
Transmission of the bacteria actually occurs through cat fleas and possibly other biting flies or ticks. A flea ingests the blood of an infected cat containing Bartonella, the bacteria multiply in the flea and are excreted with the feces. If particles get under the cat’s nails, animals can infect people through scratches or abrasions on the skin, and through the eyes (when licking).
What are the signs of cat scratch disease?
Typical signs of infection are moderate fever, chills and malaise, increased fatigue, accompanied by enlarged lymph nodes and lesions on the skin or conjunctiva (the membrane covering the white of the eye and the inner part of the eyelid). Most symptoms last a few days, but enlarged lymph nodes may persist for weeks or months.
We doctors have traditionally been taught that cat scratch disease is a mild, self-limiting infection that usually goes away on its own, without the need for medication or other intervention. Although this is true for most cases, microbe B.henselae and some other Bartonella species can sometimes cause chronic, asymptomatic or periodically exacerbated disease.
In these cases, more severe disease may develop with any combination of the following signs
- Enlarged liver and spleen,
- pneumonia and weight loss.
These more serious forms of the disease are often associated with underlying immune deficiencies, such as HIV infection. However, at present, doctors do not fully understand why some people get the more serious form of bartonellosis.
Where did human bartonellosis originate?
Before 1990. there were only two known pathogenic or pathogenic Bartonella species: B. quintana (causative agent of trench fever during World War I) and B. bacilliformis (causative agent of Oroya fever in Peru and other South American countries). These two diseases were known to affect humans, but had not yet been recognized as a disease of domestic, transmissible to humans. Since 1990. More than 24 species of Bartonella have been identified; at least half have been implicated or confirmed as animal or human pathogens.
Since the early 1990s, Bartonella organisms have been the subject of considerable scientific and medical research. Veterinary public health workers are considered the sentinel group for human bartonellosis. This means that they are considered the first to have the disease and therefore will be the most common. Several studies examine the prevalence of the disease in this group.
We know one important fact: Cats are not the only carriers of Bartonella. Currently, 27 animal species have been identified that may be carriers of the Bartonella organism. Of course, not all of them can infect people, but research is ongoing to determine those that can. There are many more questions about human bartonellosis that need to be answered.
How common is cat scratch disease?
It is not possible to give accurate estimates of the prevalence of felinosis because not all cases are diagnosed or reported. However, it is considered to be a fairly common disease. Studies show that about 5% of the population has been exposed to the infection, but only a small percentage of these people have reported having the disease.
It is likely that many human Bartonella infections go undetected without symptoms and are nothing more than a mild cold.
After infection, most people develop immunity against Bartonella. Kittens are more susceptible to infection than adult cats and transmit bacteria to humans.
Experts believe that about 40% of cats are carriers of B at some point in their lives. henselae. Cats that are carriers of B. Henselae, do not show any signs of disease; therefore, you cannot tell which cats may spread the disease.
The term «Cat scratch disease» Mislabeled that cats are the only source of transmission and infection. Although, in many cases, felinosis occurs after feline scratch, and cats are a major reservoir of B. Henselae and other Bartonella species that can cause human disease. Some people infected with Bartonella have no history of cat scratches or bites, and others have had no known contact with cats. In these individuals, transmission from environmental sources has been by various biting insects (fleas and ticks) or other animal hosts of Bartonella.
Cats get infected through flea bites. When the flea feeds on the blood of an infected cat, which can carry extremely high amounts of circulating B. Henselae in its blood, it ingests the microorganisms. Some of the germs are thought to be able to enter a man if a flea bites a man. However, there is no evidence yet that a bite from an infected flea can cause someone to have felinosis. Rather, the infection is caused by contact with flea excrement infected with B. Henselae (flea dirt under a cat’s fingernails).
Cats remain infectious for a few weeks, after which the organism disappears from the blood. It is unclear if cats can be reinfected. No reported cases of infecting anyone more than once. There is still much to learn about the actual transmission of the disease and the process of spreading cat scratch disease. What we do know is that flea control and prevention is the key to preventing felinosis in humans.
Is there a vaccine or treatment for cat scratch disease?
There is currently no vaccine for felinosis for cats or humans. B. henselae susceptible to a number of antibiotics. A combination of two different types of antibiotics is most commonly prescribed to treat infected people. The disease usually goes away on its own, and most mild cases go away without taking antibiotics.
Is there a test for cat scratch disease?
Tests are available, especially for people thought to have contracted bartonellosis. If your cat shows signs of the disease, several tests can be done to diagnose the disease, including antibody testing to detect exposure to bacteria, DNA testing (PCR) to detect bacteria in your cat’s blood, and blood cultures to grow any bacteria that may be in your cat’s bloodstream.
Will removing my cat’s claws help reduce the risk of spreading cat scratch disease?
There is no evidence that removing cat claws reduces the risk of transmitting B. henselae to humans! It is recommended to keep the cat away from fleas and avoid or prevent situations that may lead to bites and scratches. Remember, B.henselae is transmitted to humans by contact with infected fleas and dirt.
Contact is possible in a variety of ways:
- From cat scratches, as there may be dirt under the claws;
- from cat bites, since the organisms may be present in the cat’s saliva (due to ingestion of flea dirt during licking);
- From getting flea dirt on their hands (from the cat or the environment) and getting it in the eye or an open wound.
What steps can I take to reduce the risk of felinosis?
- Trim the cat’s claws.
- Treat all animals periodically for fleas.
- Keep your cat at home.
- Avoid rough play with the cat.
- Immediately wash bites or scratches with soap or disinfectant.