Cat scratch disease : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

A person who has had contact with a cat may show common symptoms, including:

  • Bump (papule) or blister (pustule) at site of injury (usually the first sign)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (in some patients)
  • Headache
  • Lymph node swelling near the scratch or bite
  • Overall discomfort (malaise)

Less common symptoms may include:

  • Draining lymph nodes’
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis & Tests

If you have swollen lymph nodes and a scratch or bite from (or have been in contact with) a cat, the health care provider may suspect cat scratch disease. A physical examination may reveal an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly).

The disease often goes unrecognized because of the difficulty in testing. However, the Bartonella henselae IFA test is highly accurate for identifying infection caused by this bacteria.

Other tests used in the diagnosis of cat scratch disease:

  • Lymph node biopsy to rule out other causes of swollen glands


Review Date : 8/28/2009
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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