Study: Cat-scratch disease is deadlier than previously thought

Sleeping cat file photo (WFLA)
Sleeping cat file photo (WFLA)

ATLANTA, GA (WFLA) – This may make you think twice about cuddling with your cat.

A new study reveals cat-scratch disease may be deadlier than previously thought. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared the findings.

Cat-scratch disease, a bacterial infection, is spread between cats through both fleas and droppings. Humans can catch the infection through cat scratches and bites, or when a cat licks a wound.

The CDC researchers reviewed health-insurance claims filed between 2005 and 2013. The claims revealed 13,273 people diagnosed with the disease. Of those, 538 people had to be hospitalized.

“Although the number of people suffering from cat-scratch disease was relatively low — about 4.5 outpatient diagnoses out of every 100,000 accounts — the report noted an increase of people suffering from serious side effects,” TODAY.com reports.

Symptoms of cat-scratch disease include: low-grade fever, enlarged and tend lymph nodes, a papule or pustule, according to the CDC. In rare cases victims may develop eye infections, severe muscle pain or encephalitis. Symptoms develop between one and three weeks after exposure. Read more about the infection here.

Both domestic and feral cats can cause the disease. Cats usually carry the bacteria in their blood without showing any symptoms. In fact, up to one-third of health cats may carry the bacteria, according to the CDC. TODAY.com says about 40 percent of cats will carry the bacteria during their lives.  Kittens are at greater risk than adult cats.

Wash cat bites or scratches with soap and water – as soon as possible, the CDC recommends. In addition, make sure cats, even those that are indoors at all times, receives flea prevention medicine.

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