OBJECTIVE: To describe the epidemiology of emergency department mammalian animal exposures and to compare adult and pediatric exposure characteristics.
METHODS: This was a prospective case series of patients presenting with animal-exposure related complaints from July 1996 to July 1998. Eleven university-affiliated, geographically diverse, urban emergency departments (EMERGEncy ID NET) participated.
RESULTS: A total of 1,631 exposures (80.5%) were from dogs, 267 (13.2%) from cats, 88 (4.3%) from rodents or rabbits, 18 (0.9%) from raccoons and wild carnivores, eight (0.4%) from livestock, nine (0.4%) from monkeys, and five (0.2%) from bats. Compared with adults, children were more likely to be bitten by dogs (odds ratio [OR], 2.9; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 2.2 – 3.8) or hamsters, gerbils and rabbits (OR, 2.6 95% CI = 0.79 – 9.2); to be bitten on the head, neck or face (OR, 6.7; 95% CI = 5.2 – 8.6); and to be petting or playing with the animal at the time of exposure (OR, 2.6; 95% CI = 2.1 – 3.3).
CONCLUSIONS: Animal exposures are a common source of injury seen in the emergency department. These findings have potentially important public health implications in terms of emphsizing the need to effectively implement education programs for parents and children.