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Which diseases can you get from dog bites?

If you receive a bite from a dog in Illinois, whether a pet or a stray, you are at risk for contracting a number of different diseases. The scientific name for these conditions is "zoonoses" because they can transmit between animals and human beings. 

Zoonotic diseases may result from either bacteria or viruses present in the dog's mouth. The Centers for Disease Control identifies a number of possible infections that can result from a dog bite.


Probably the most well-known of these conditions is rabies. Many people are frightened of contracting the rabies virus because, once infected, you are almost certain to die from the damage it causes in the brain. However, due to the common practice of vaccinating dogs and other pets against the disease, the risk of rabies infection from a dog bite is relatively small. Furthermore, even if there is a chance of contracting rabies because you received a bite from an unvaccinated dog, it takes a while for the virus to incubate in the human body, and rabies shots are effective at preventing the disease if administered before symptoms appear. 


Another common infection that can result from a dog bite is tetanus. It involves a species of bacteria called Clostridium tetani that occurs commonly in soil, on rusted metal and in the mouths of animals. Once transmitted into body tissues, the bacteria give off a toxin that causes muscle rigidity and paralysis. It is routine to vaccinate people against tetanus with booster shots every 10 years after the initial dose. If you are not current on your tetanus shot, you should receive another after a bite from a dog.


MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is an infectious bacteria that has built up a resistance to certain antibiotics due to previous exposure. MRSA infections are difficult to treat because the drugs usually used are not effective and different treatment methods are necessary.

Due to the risk of potentially life-threatening infection, it is best to take steps to avoid a bite from a dog whenever possible. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.


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