Steveston Sea Lion Attack Prompts Warnings About Animal Bites

By now most of Canada and the rest of the world has heard about the sea lion who pulled a young child into the Steveston Harbour last weekend – the incident was even caught on video, which went viral.

While it was initially thought that the child suffered no injuries, it has since been revealed that she has undergone treatment for a dangerous bacterial infection commonly referred to as “seal finger.” Seal finger commonly affects individuals who work with marine mammals, but can affect anyone bitten by a sea lion. Symptoms include pain and swelling, and it can even be resistant to antibiotics.

Ali Ghahary Sea Lion
Animals mouths, such as Sea Lions, contain dangerous bacteria

As a result of what happened last weekend, more individuals and health professionals are speaking out on the importance of treating wounds caused by animals. If you fall and scrape your knee, have a paper cut, or burn yourself, those kinds of wounds are typically easily treated and almost always never require antibiotics (though in some cases they do.) However, in the case of an animal bite, the risk of developing an infection increases. This is due to animals mouths carrying a large amount of bacteria – specifically cats and dogs.

So what should you do if you are wounded by an animal? First and foremost, it is important to keep the site of the wound clean. This can be done by gently cleansing the area with soap and water. You should also apply pressure to the area to help stop bleeding, and can apply a sterile bandage to the wound.

For deeper wounds, a visit to a walk-in clinic (such as Brentwood Medical Clinic where Dr. Ali Ghahary practices) or emergency room may be necessary as you might require stitches. Antibiotics may also be prescribed, and a tetanus shot will be recommended if you have not had a vaccine in 5 years or more.

For more information on treating wounds, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.