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The Answer Doc by Dr. Christopher Munger

Animal bites should be treated carefully

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    Some of the common injuries that we see in the summertime are animal bites.  People are outside more often and walking through neighborhoods.  Families go and visit other families. This leads to situations where people come into contact with cats and dogs to which they are unfamiliar.  Out of these encounters, we occasionally end up with animal bites.
    Animal bites most commonly result in puncture wounds.  If someone is bitten by a cat or a dog there are several things that you must do:
     1. If the animal is unfamiliar to you or the injured person, you must verify the animal’s rabies vaccination status.  If the animal is not up to date on its shots, you must report the animal to animal control and have it quarantined.
     2. If the animal is rabid or has serious signs of being rabid, you need to see your doctor and discuss rabies prophylaxis, which unfortunately is a series of very painful injections.
     3. Promptly after being bitten, you need to thoroughly irrigate the wound(s) with tepid water.
     4. If the bite breaks the skin, you should see a doctor.  Animal bites are almost never sutured shut.  This is because of the high likelihood of infection.  Your doctor will almost certainly place you on prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection from forming.
     5. If, after being placed on antibiotics, the wound becomes more and more red or starts to drain pus, you should return to you doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of a much more serious infection.
    I also wanted to touch on cat scratches. Most often cat scratches are just that, scratches.  They should be cleaned with soap and water immediately.  The scratches can be covered or left to the open air.  You can choose to treat them with antibiotic ointment if you prefer, although there is no definitive date that this improves rates of healing.  
    Now there is a special type of bacteria that lives under cats’ nails that can cause “Cat Scratch Fever.”  Fortunately, this does not cause you to sing and act like Ted Nugent. Unfortunately, it can cause high fever and swollen lymph nodes in the area near the cat scratch.  If you develop these symptoms after a cat scratch, see your doctor. This illness can be easily treated with antibiotics.

    Dr. Christopher Munger’s column appears every other Sunday. Dr. Munger is board certified in family practice. He is a member of the Family Health Care Center in Statesboro and admits patients to East Georgia Regional Medical Center. He is originally from California. He received his bachelors degree from UCLA, his medical degree from Columbia University in New York City and completed his training in family practice at the University of Virginia. He lives in Statesboro with his wife and two dogs.
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