Scope of the problem

Worldwide, cat bites account for 2–50% of injuries related to animal-bites. They are commonly second to dog bites in terms of incidence. In Italy for example, the incidence of cat-related injuries is 18 per 100 000 population, while in the United States of America, there are an estimated 400 000 cat bites and 66 000 visits to hospital emergency departments every year.

Who is most at risk?

Female adults have the highest rate of cat bites.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the location of the bite and the rabies vaccination status of animal species inflicting the bite. The main principles of care include:

  • early medical management including wound cleansing;
  • prophylactic antibiotics to decrease infection risk;
  • rabies post-exposure treatment depending on the animal vaccination status;
  • administration of the tetanus vaccine if the person has not been adequately vaccinated.

Prevention of cat bites and their serious health consequences

  • Communities should be informed about the risks of cat bites and prevention techniques for cat bites including vaccinating cats against rabies.
  • Health-care providers should be educated on the appropriate management of these injuries.
  • Health authorities and policy-makers should ensure rabies control within animal populations, and appropriate supplies of post-exposure rabies treatment and antibiotic prophylaxis for bitten people.
  • They should also support research initiatives directed at providing more information on the burden of cat bites.

Compiled by Oppong Essel.

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