Mapping the risk associated with dogs bites in humans: studies from Australia and China aiding the design of intervention studies

Associate Professor Ricardo Megalhaes (view profile)

In Australia, more than 2,000 people are annually admitted to hospital for treatment for dog bite injuries and children under the age of 10 are particularly at risk.

Despite this disease burden the location of geographical areas most of risk of dog bites and associated risk factors are poorly understood. Dog bites in China are a well-recognised public health problem. Our studies in China demonstrate the important role of health education at reducing dog bites and diseases associated with these injuries. Rabies is a significant public health problem in China in that it records the second highest case incidence globally.

Surveillance data on canine rabies in China is lacking and human rabies notifications can be a useful indicator of areas where animal and human rabies control could be integrated. In this presentation, we aim to describe ongoing studies of dog bites in the Greater Brisbane area and articulate the need for further studies looking at understanding the spatiotemporal distribution of dog bite cases and associated risk factors. We will also present findings from our studies in China looking into human rabies and model its geographical spread to provide an evidence base to inform future integrated rabies control strategies.

Some of our recent studies aimed to measure and compare the effect on knowledge and protective behaviour towards dog bites of health education interventions that include a novel Short Messaging Service via cell phones (SMS) and rabies health information sessions at schools (IS).

Findings of our studies in China highlight the potential usefulness of TV commercials, mobile phone SMS and school IS as effective health promotion tools for public health communication; further studies are needed to investigate the long term benefits of these interventions on the reduction of dog bites and resulting human rabies incidence.