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Health Tip: Risking Cat Scratch Disease

How to prevent getting it

(HealthDay News) -- Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial infection that develops when people have been bitten or scratched by a cat. Lymph nodes, especially those around the head, neck and upper limbs, become swollen. A person with CSD may also have symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue and a poor appetite.

About 40 percent of cats, especially kittens, carry the bacteria that causes this disease at some time in their lives. Cats that carry it do not show any signs of illness, so you cannot tell which cats can spread the disease. Although the bacteria has been found in fleas, so far there is no evidence that a bite from an infected flea can give you CSD.

The National Center for Infectious Diseases offers these tips to prevent CSD:

  • Avoid "rough play" with cats, especially kittens, that may lead to cat scratches and bites.
  • Wash bites and scratches immediately and thoroughly with running water and soap.
  • Do not allow cats to lick open wounds that you have.
  • Control fleas.
  • If you develop the symptoms mentioned above or an infection (with pus and pronounced swelling) where you were scratched or bitten by a cat, contact your doctor.
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