Treatment and outcome of unusual animal bite injuries in young children

Peter de Klerk, Monique van Dijk, A B van As


Background. Animal bites are a major cause of preventable traumatic injuries.

Objectives. To provide more epidemiological information on animal bites, and assist in increasing awareness of the problem.

Methods. A retrospective chart review was performed including children aged >13 years presenting with bite injuries (excluding dog and human bites) to the trauma unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, over a 25-year period.

Results. Two hundred and thirteen children were eligible to be entered into the study. The median age was 2.9 years (range 1.2 - 6.5), with boys slightly predominating (54.9%). Most (74.6%) of the bite injuries were inflicted by mammals, the majority (64.8) of mammalian bites being rat bites. The proportions of boys and girls in the age group 0 - 4 years bitten by rats significantly differed from the proportions in the age group >4 years (p=0.039). In the age group 0 - 4 years more girls suffered rat bites, while more boys were bitten in the age group >4 years. Of 91 rat bites, 81 (89.0%) occurred inside the house. The hands (43.9%) and the head/face/neck region (39.0%) were most affected. The underdeveloped suburbs of Philippi, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha in Cape Town represented a disproportionate number (41.6%) of rat bites.

Conclusion. There is a relationship between poverty, unemployment, poor housing, informal settlements and rodent infestation. These high-risk populations need to be the target for government rat eradication programmes.

Authors' affiliations

Peter de Klerk, Department of Pediatric Surgery, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Monique van Dijk, Department of Pediatric Surgery and Paediatrics, Erasmus MC-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, Netherlands

A B van As, Department of Paediatric Surgery, University of Cape Town, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Epidemiology; Animal bite injuries

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(2):206-209. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i2.10106

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-25
Date published: 2016-01-08

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