What to do when you ve been bitten by an animal

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ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Bak, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, bites down on Staff Sgt. Kevin Nelson, 28 SFS K-9 unit trainer, during a training session, June 24. Sergeant Nelson wears a Òbite suitÓ to protect his legs from serious injury during the training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Anthony Sanchelli)

Tens of millions of people are bitten by dogs every year, according to the World Health Organisation, and an estimated 55,000 people die every year as a result of preventable infections.

If you get bitten by any kind of animal, be it a cat or a monkey, it’s always best to get the wound checked by a doctor before it has a chance to swell up, even if you think it might just be a scratch.

Any animal bite lesions should first be cleaned with tap water, and then covered with a sterile dressing or plaster, according to casualty surgeon Dr Josef Mischo.

If it hurts, locally cooling the area may help.

It’s also important for anyone who has suffered a bite to check whether their tetanus vaccine is up to date, otherwise it could lead to a nasty infection and require serious treatment.

A doctor will also be able to say if a rabies vaccination is necessary.

You should generally not underestimate bites, even those that cause apparently minor wounds, Dr Mischo notes.

It is difficult to assess tissue damage without proper medical training.

“Cat bites in particular are usually deep, and are therefore, more likely to cause a subsequent infection,” the expert explains.