Animal bites may have potentially devastating consequences, including physical and emotional trauma, infection, rabies exposure, hospitalization, and, rarely, death. NC law requires animal bites be reported to local health directors. However, methods for recording and storing bite data vary among municipalities. NC does not have a statewide system for reporting and surveillance of animal bites. Additionally, many animal bites are likely not reported to the appropriate agencies. NC DETECT provides near-real-time statewide surveillance capacity to local, regional, and state level users with twice daily data feeds from NC EDs. Between 2008 and 2010, 110 to 113 EDs were submitting visit data to NC DETECT. Several animal bite-related on-line reports are available and provide aggregate and visit-level analyses customized to users' respective jurisdictions. The NC DETECT ED visit database currently provides the most comprehensive and cost-effective source of animal bite data in NC.
We describe the use of emergency department (ED) visit data collected through the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT) for surveillance of animal bites in North Carolina (NC). Animal bite surveillance using ED visit data provides useful and timely information for public health practitioners involved in bite surveillance and prevention in NC.