Cat bites may lead to serious infections: Study

Cat bites may lead to serious infections: Study

Cat bites may be more harmful than originally thought.

Many of us know that animal bites can be serious, even if they come from domesticated animals. This is especially true if the bite has punctured the skin.

Now, however, recent research by the Mayo Clinic points towards solid evidence that cat bites in particular can be quite harmful. At first, a cat bite may seem to be less serious than the bite of another animal, such as a dog. However, the Mayo Clinic has found these bites sometimes have dire consequences, especially when they occur on the hand.

The new research study, which was printed in Journal of Hand Surgery in February 2014, reports that cat bites in the hand are especially dangerous. In fact, one out of three people who were bitten on the hand by a cat ended up being hospitalized. The main reason is because cats have sharp teeth that can penetrate into the skin and subsequently inject germs into the area. When compared to dogs, which have more bluntly shaped teeth, a cat’s bite stabs farther down into the skin, putting the victim at a higher risk of infection.

Study senior Dr. Brian Carlsen, a plastic surgeon and orthopedic hand surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, says that even a small pinpoint bite mark can be a big problem. “The bacteria get into the tendon sheath or into the joint where they can grow with relative protection from the blood and immune system.”

The research involved approximately 200 cat bite cases between 2009 and 2011. Each person had been bitten on their hand. Nearly half of these patients went to an emergency room for treatment, while the rest went to a primary care doctor. The study found that on average, the patients waited for 27 hours before getting treatment. Of the number of infected individuals, 57 required hospitalization, although just 36 were admitted immediately after seeking emergency care.

In total, 38 of the hospitalized patients required surgery to clean the area and remove any infected tissue. The journal reports that eight patients needed a second surgery, and a few had to have reconstructive surgery. Ultimately, 80 percent of study participants needed oral antibiotics, while 14 percent were admitted to the hospital after oral antibiotics failed to work.

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