Keep enjoying those cute cat videos — they may be as close as you want to get to Fluffy for a while.
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the bacterial infection cat-scratch disease may have had a deeper and more deadly impact to people than originally assumed.
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Cat-scratch disease (sometimes called cat-scratch fever) is spread among felines through flea bites and droppings. It's then transmitted to humans through scratches, bites or when an infected cat licks a person's open wound.
Researchers in the CDC study examined MarketScan health-insurance claims between 2005 and 2013. They found 13,273 people who were diagnosed with cat-scratch disease, including 538 requiring hospitalization.
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.
Cat-scratch disease takes between three to 14 days before the infected area may appear swollen and red with raised lesions.It also may bring fever, headache, exhaustion and poor appetite.
Children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are most likely to be affected by cat-scratch disease.
The CDC says that kittens younger than a year old are more likely to carry the bacterium that causes the illness, Bartonella henselae, because they're more likely to scratch and bite people while playing.
Overall, about 40 percent of cats carry the bacterium that causes the illness at some point in their lives.
In addition, stray cats may be more likely than pets to have the illness.
To help decrease chances for infection, the CDC recommends washing any bites or scratches immediately with soap and water.
Cats also should be kept on monthly flea prevention medicine (even if they're indoor only) and have their claws trimmed regularly.