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Lots of Bugs in Dog and Cat Bites

Lots of Bugs in Dog and Cat Bites
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY=
Associated Press Writer=
    A dog's bugs can be worse than its bite.
    Cultures from 107 infected dog and cat bites turned up 152 kinds
of bacteria, including 10 not previously known to infect people, a
study found. There were an average of five kinds of germs per bite.
    It's the best study of the topic so far and should persuade
doctors not to try the cheap route when treating infected bites,
emergency physicians said.
    The germs aren't dangerous unless the skin is broken, meaning
it's probably OK to let your dog lick your face, as long as you can
stand its breath. In fact, human bites are much more dangerous, in
terms of germs transmitted.
    ``If you have a choice about being bitten, you don't want a
person. Choose your cat,'' said Dr. Toni Mitchell of the American
College of Emergency Physicians.
    Millions of people get bitten every year. About 270,000 go to
emergency rooms to have dog and cat bites treated, and about 9,000
have to be hospitalized.
    Most of the time, it's because of the damage to flesh and bone
from the bite itself. However, infections can force amputation and
even cause death. The class of germs found most often includes ones
that can cause meningitis and blood infections.
    This study, reported in Thursday's New England Journal of
Medicine, looked at people treated for infected bites at 18
emergency rooms around the country.
    A list of the germs they found took up a full page in small
type.
    ``It certainly expands our knowledge in that area,'' said Dr.
Robert McNamara, president of the American Academy of Emergency
Medicine. And, he said, it shows that the broad-spectrum
antibiotics usually prescribed for bites are the right treatment.
    About 20 percent of the patients treated at 18 emergency rooms
did not get those drugs, said Dr. David A. Talan of UCLA Medical
Center, the study's lead author.
    ``One concern with treating these infections is that the
antibiotics you use are fairly expensive,'' McNamara said.
``Sometimes people try to get away with the cheaper medicines, like
penicillin alone. Hopefully, this will eliminate that 20 percent.''
    The researchers were struck by how quickly the infections can
develop. The average time was 12 hours for cat bites and 24 hours
for dog bites. Several bites took less than eight hours to show
signs of infection.
    ``Animals shouldn't be biting people. But since that's always
going to happen sometimes, keep a close eye on infections,'' Talan
said.
    The most common sort of bug, found in half the dog bites and
three-quarters of the cat bites, is pasteurella. Pasteurella germs
can cause meningitis or blood infections.
    The study was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer
Inc.