3 things to know about ‘cat-scratch fever’

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The CDC has released a new study on cat-scratch disease, often referred to as cat-scratch fever, aimed at better understanding the epidemiology of the disease to offer prevention tactics for those at risk.

According to the CDC, cat-scratch disease — though rare — creates a substantial disease burden across the country and disproportionately affects children.

Here are three things to know about cat-scratch disease.

1. Disease: CSD is a zoonosis — an infectious disease of animals — caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria, which is spread among cats by the cat flea. Transmission to humans occurs via cat scratches or bites. A papule often occurs at the site of infection and swelling of the lymph nodes in proximity to the site of the scratch or bite is the predominant clinical feature of the disease. Other symptoms include fever and joint pain. Though very rare, some severe cases can result in serious events like seizures. Those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to the infection.

2. Study and findings: For the study, CDC researchers conducted a comprehensive retro-analysis on health insurance claim data from all 50 states for patients under 65 years of age collected by Truven Health Analytics from 2005 to 2013. Approximately 12,000 people were diagnosed with cat-scratch disease every year, 500 of which required hospitalization. Children aged five to nine years had the highest rate of infection incidence. Among adults, women ages 60 to 64 were found to have the highest infection rates.

3. Prevention: The study's authors suggest individuals can avoid cat-scratch disease by washing their hands after playing with the animal, keeping cats indoors and treating their cats for fleas.

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