Afraid of Snakes? Wasps and Dogs Are Deadlier

Beware the snake, the spider and the scorpion. But know this: You are much more likely to be killed by a bee or a dog.

Of the 1,610 people killed in encounters with animals between 2008 and 2015, 478 were killed by hornets, wasps and bees, and 272 by dogs, according to a study published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were responsible for 99 deaths over the eight years.

Using a database published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that 72 people annually were killed by “other mammals,” which includes horses, cattle and pigs.

Only six people a year died from snakebite, and six after being bitten by a venomous spider. Two people were killed by marine animals over the eight-year period, and no one was killed by a rat.

But 95 children under 10 years old were killed by dogs over the eight years. The fatality rate from dog attacks on children under age 4 was twice as high as for people over age 65, and four times higher than that of other age groups.

“Children under 4 are at substantial risk,” said the lead author, Dr. Jared A. Forrester, a surgical resident at Stanford University. “And it’s usually family dogs or dogs known to the children who are doing the killing. It’s up to public health professionals and parents to prevent these interactions.”

Over all, about 72 percent of the victims were men, and most were between 35 and 64 years old. The Southeast had the highest number of deaths and the highest death rate, while the Northeast had the lowest.

The data has some limitations. It does not include fatalities from car crashes with deer and other animals. According to the C.D.C., that results in about 200 deaths a year. And causes of death may have been misclassified because of the limitations of information provided by death certificates.

Dr. Forrester emphasized that most deaths are not from encounters with wild animals. Dogs, cattle and horses are much more dangerous. Among non-domestic animals, bees, wasps and hornets present the greatest danger.

The problem is growing worse, he said, because of the recent increase in the price of a lifesaving medicine for insect stings: epinephrine auto-injectors, including the EpiPen. “The 400 percent increase in the price of the medicine used for anaphylaxis is a significant public health issue,” he said.


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