Janese Walters had lived with her kitten for one year when unexpectedly she lost sight in her left eye. After a year of inconclusive analysis, her doctor diagnosed her with an infection of Bartonella Henselae, or Cat Scratch disease. Cat Scratch Disease is an uncommon infection that is transmitted from cats to humans through a bite or scratch. The symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, and a sore at the site of the bite or scratch.
What is Cat Scratch Disease?
It sounds sensational, a kitten causing its owner to go blind, and that’s because it is. Bartonella Henselae can be found in 40 percent of cats, but does not usually affect healthy individuals. Only those who are already immunocompromised are really vulnerable to infection and fewer than five percent of people with cat scratch disease develop serious symptoms. In the worst-case scenarios, it can affect the eyes by increasing the number of blood vessels in a certain area, causing angiomas, liver problems, and meningitis.
Walters had a preexisting eye condition known as Parinaud’s Oculoglandular Syndrome, which causes inflammation of the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. This condition was exacerbated by the bacterial infection, not caused by it. That’s not to say that cat scratch disease is harmless and should be ignored. There are more than 60 million pet cats in the United States and around 24,000 people are diagnosed with cat scratch disease each year. Studies have shown that kittens transmit the disease more often than adult cats do, and kitten with fleas are 29 times more likely to carry the bacteria than kittens without fleas.
How to Prevent Cat Scratch Disease
Children should be especially careful around wild or unknown cats. If you are scratched or bitten, don’t panic, but be sure to wash your hands afterward and see a doctor if a sore or infection develops at the site. One of the best things you can do as a cat owner is to take your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year for a health exam. This can help to prevent serious infections and illness. Your vet can teach you the best way to protect your pet from disease carrying fleas, and what signs you should be on the lookout for regarding your cat’s health.
Cat scratch disease is dangerous if you are already immunocompromised and you let it go unchecked. If you take proper precaution when handling your pets, take your cat to the veterinarian as , and visit the doctor when you feel poorly, Bartonella Henselae has very little chance of causing blindness or any other serious condition. So feel free to go on playing with your cats without fear.