Seriousness of Animal Bites Under-Recognised in Australia

December 2, 2008

( -- One in two Australians are bitten by an animal at least once in their lifetime and 2% of the population is bitten each year, according to a review article published in the latest issue of Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

The paper, by Dr David Looke and Dr Claire Dendle, specialists in infectious diseases specialists, summarises relevant research studies on particular infections that can be transmitted from animals.

In addition to the injuries sustained from animal bites, which can range from minor abrasions to amputation of limbs and death, the authors say both doctors and the community need to be aware that serious infection can occur.

The risk of infection following bites differs amongst animal species and is dependent on animal dentition and oral flora.

Most bites (85-90%) are from dogs, they said, with the main risk factors being young children, males, certain dog breeds, and unrestrained dogs.

Other animals likely to attack include cats (5-10%), rodents (2-3%), humans (2-3%), native mammals or marsupials, reptiles, monkeys and marine animals.

Two fatal cases of Australian bat lyssavirus have been reported. All bat bites are high risk and should receive post-exposure treatment for rabies.

Human bites have a higher complication and infection rate than do animal bites, and hepatitis B and C may be transmitted.

HIV transmission is rare from human bites but has occurred on at least five occasions.

“Because only a small proportion of bite wounds are seen by doctors, these represent a very small fraction of what is a large public health problem,” said Brisbane-based Dr Looke.

“Government legislation regarding limitation of dangerous breeds, mandatory dog sterilisation and restraint of dogs on leads, differs between Australian states, and prevention of bites thorough government policy and responsible pet ownership is paramount in reducing this serious problem.”

Animals are an important part of Australian culture, with 64% of households owning a pet and the pet care industry contributing $4 billion to the economy annually.

Provided by Wiley

Explore further: Jervis Bay funnel-web surprises scientists

Related Stories

Jervis Bay funnel-web surprises scientists

September 8, 2015

Scientists studying funnel-web spiders at Booderee National Park near Jervis Bay on the New South Wales south coast have found a large example of an unexpected funnel-web species.

Investigating disease risk from Parklands bats

August 27, 2015

New research at the University of Adelaide is studying the bat colony in Adelaide's north-eastern parklands (Botanic Park, not Botanic Gardens) to investigate the diseases they may be carrying, their ecology and where they ...

Shark populations suffer from undue reputation

January 27, 2015

Sharks have been making news yet again, after a spate of sightings in Newcastle, New South Wales, prompted days of beach closures and reports of oceangoers allegedly being "stalked" by "monster" specimens.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.