Friday, April 18, 2008

First Aid for Cat Bites and the Risk of Rabies

Cat Bites and the Risk of Rabies Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by Kate Grossman, MD

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

Q. My preschooler was bitten by a stray cat in the neighborhood this afternoon. What should I do?
A. In addition to basic first aid, which includes stopping the bleeding, cleaning the wound with soap and water, and applying an antibiotic ointment and bandage to the bite, you should call your local animal control agent, health department, and/or pediatrician to see if your child is at risk for:
  • a bacterial infection - many cats, although they don't have symptoms, have the Pasteurella multocida bacteria in their mouth, which can cause wound infections in children
  • tetanus - especially if it has been more than 5 years since your child's last tetanus shot and the cat bite is very deep or is contaminated with dirt, etc.
  • rabies - surprisingly,more reported rabies cases in the United States involve cats than dogs, although those cases are still much lower than the incidence of rabies in wild animals.