Objective: To estimate the incidence of dog bites in the USA and compare it with similar estimates from 1994.
Design: Nationally representative cross-sectional, list-assisted, random-digit-dialed telephone survey conducted during 2001–2003.
Methods: Weighted estimates were generated from data collected by surveying 9684 households during 2001–2003 and compared with results from a similar survey conducted in 1994. Estimates for persons aged 15–17 years were extrapolated on the basis of rates for 10–14-year-olds.
Results: Whereas the incidence of dog bites among adults remained relatively unchanged, there was a significant (47%) decline in the incidence of dog bites among children compared with that observed in the 1994 survey, particularly among boys and among those aged 0–4 years. Between 2001 and 2003, an estimated 4 521 300 persons were bitten each year. Of these, 885 000 required medical attention (19%). Children were more likely than adults to receive medical attention for a dog bite. Among adults, bite rates decreased with increasing age. Among children and adults, having a dog in the household was associated with a significantly increased incidence of dog bites, with increasing incidence also related to increasing numbers of dogs.
Conclusions: Dog bites continue to be a public health problem affecting 1.5% of the US population annually. Although comparison with similar data from 1994 suggests that bite rates for children are decreasing, there still appears to be a need for effective prevention programs.
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Competing interests: None.