Original Research

Seal bites at sub-Antarctic Marion Island: Incidence, outcomes and treatment recommendations

Ryan R. Reisinger, Miles Penfold, Marthán N. Bester, Gerhard Steenkamp
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 91 | a1720 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v91i0.1720 | © 2020 Ryan R. Reisinger, Miles Penfold, Marthán N. Bester, Gerhard Steenkamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 August 2018 | Published: 24 March 2020

About the author(s)

Ryan R. Reisinger, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Miles Penfold, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Marthán N. Bester, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Gerhard Steenkamp, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Seal biologists at Marion Island (Southern Ocean) are in frequent contact with seals. During research activities, biologists may be bitten by seals, yet no standardised protocol for treating such bites is in place. Information on 22 seal bite cases at Marion Island was collected. Treatment of these bites varied, reflecting a need for standardised protocols for the treatment of bites. Recommendations for the in-field treatment of bites are presented. Five of the 22 cases had some symptoms which resembled ‘seal finger’ – a zoonotic infection, usually of the hands, that is contracted after a person comes into contact with tissues of seals or is bitten by one. However, in four of these cases, symptoms subsided within 4 days without antibiotic treatment; in the fifth case antibiotics were administered and symptoms subsided in 4 days. There is little evidence of the occurrence of seal finger at Marion Island, but this deserves further investigation.

Keywords

marine mammal; bite; treatment; infection; zoonoses

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