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MRSA and dog bites: The link can be devastating


If you’ve been recently attacked by a dog, cat, or other pet, you know that seeking medical advice is important. While you may not feel your injury is severe, it’s wise to have your health checked by a professional and to get antibiotics for any bites that break the skin. Even minor wounds can become infected, leading to serious harm later on.

There is always the potential for long-term injuries after suffering an animal bite, but one that has been drawing more attention in the last few years is the risk of MRSA infections. U.S. researchers have said that MRSA, which is an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, can infect lacerations and punctures caused by animals. This puts the hospital staff and patient at risk for serious illness following a bite, even if it doesn’t seem to be severe at the time of injury.

How does this happen? Initially, pets may catch the infection from their owners or by being in a place with MRSA present, like if the dog is a therapy dog or works in nursing homes. After that, they serve as a kind of reservoir, holding the bacteria in their bodies until they bite someone or lick an open wound. The transmission of community-acquired MRSA in this way is still being studied, but what’s important to remember is that seeking medical attention after a bite can help prevent the spread of infections of many types, whether they’re MRSA, rabies, or other dangerous bacteria or viruses.

The most common site for bite-related infections is the hand, and long-term problems are most likely to develop there with around 30 to 40 percent of bites becoming infected.

Source: Nursing Times, “Treating animal bites carries MRSA infection risk,” accessed April 20, 2016

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