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Hospitals Reporting a Sharp Rise in Dog Bite Victims

With over 75 million pet dogs in the United States, it's not surprising that quite a few people are going to suffer dog bites. What might be surprising is how quickly the numbers of dog bites are rising in this country.

According to a recent government report, the number of Americans requiring hospitalization for treatment of dog bites has nearly doubled in 15 years.

The New York Times reports that between 1993 and 2008, the number of people hospitalized for dog bites rose from 5,100 to 9,500.

That rapid increase far exceeds the rate of growth in population, as well as the slight growth in pet ownership during those years, said the author of the report, Ann Elixhauser, a senior researcher with the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Her report analyzed inpatient hospital stays and emergency room visits, using data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for the years 1993 to 2008, as well as the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample for 2008.

Said Elixhauser, "It's really kind of frightening, and unfortunately we're at a loss to explain it. It's a pretty hefty increase."

She told the Times that approximately 860 people per day went to ER suffering from dog bites in 2008; about 26 of them were admitted into the hospital for more extended treatments.

The victims of dog bites most likely to require hospitalization: children under the age of five and adults 65 and up.

According to the report, people who live in rural areas make four times as many visits to emergency rooms for dog bites and were admitted to hospitals three times as often as people from more urban areas.

About half of those who were hospitalized required treatment for tissue infections. More than half needed painful treatments such as wound debridement and skin grafts.

Dog bite treatments cost an average of $18,200 per patient.

Source: New York Times: "Hospital Admissions for Dog Bites Are on the Rise": December 10, 2010

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