Background: Rabies is one of the oldest zoonosis viral diseases, which still remains as one of the most important threats to public health in the 21st century.
Methods: This cross-sectional study examined epidemiologic features of all 33,996 cases of persons bitten by animals and referred to the rabies prophylaxis centers in Golestan province between March 2017 and March 2020. Factors included demographic information of the victim (age, gender, and occupation), type of invasive animals (dog, cat, and other types), time of bite (year, month, and hour), place of residence (urban or rural), and injury and treatment statuses. We also obtained national and provincial animal bite incidence data for all of Iran and for Golestan province for the longer interval 2013-2020 to examine broader time trends. We used SPSS version 19, QGIS version 3.1, and Excel 2013 to generate frequency distributions and descriptive statistics.
Results: The incidence rates of animal bites in Golestan province and Iran as a whole both increased smoothly. The latest incidence rate of animal bites in Golestan was 652 per 100,000 people, almost three times the overall national figure for 2020. Most cases of animal bites (67.6%) occurred in rural areas, and 36% of the victims aged under 19 years old. Dog and cat bites accounted for the great majority of cases (89% and 8%, respectively). The highest rate of animal bites was reported in the spring (30.8%). The lower limb was the most commonly bitten area in these individuals (64.6%). Of note, 87% of the cases received incomplete prophylactic post-exposure treatment, and 18% received immunoglobulin.
Conclusion: The increasing rates of animal bites in the study area as well as the higher rate compared to the national average indicates the need for further review of animal bite control programs.