It's all downhill from here for Mayo Clinic plastic and orthopedic surgeon Brian Carlsen, M.D. Not as a hand surgeon, mind you, but from a media standpoint. That's because when Dr. Carlsen released the results of a cat bite study earlier this month, the media couldn't keep their paws off of it.
"I was shocked," Dr. Carlsen tells us, referring to the more than 350 media outlets that reported on his study. (Some of us already knew cats rule the Internet.) "This is definitely the most media attention I've ever gotten. It's been a total shock, total surprise. I never expected any of my papers to do this."
The study itself simply stated that some people (some, people) who are bitten in the hand by cats end up being hospitalized with infections and of those, some may even require surgery. That's just a portion of those who happen to be bitten. (No one is suggesting your dear Fluffy means you harm.)
Dr. Carlsen says it's not that cats are more dangerous than dogs or other pets, or that their mouths have more germs. Instead, he says the main reason that some cat bites send people to the hospital, and end up requiring surgery, is because a cat's teeth are much sharper than a dog's. (And a goldfish's.) "The cats' teeth are sharp, and they can penetrate very deeply," Dr. Carlsen says in the official news release. "They can seed bacteria in the joint and tendon sheaths." And that's when the problems begin. "It can be just a pinpoint bite mark that can cause a real problem," Dr. Carlsen says.
Sounds reasonable enough to us. And not "anti-cat." Still, since the results were published in the Journal of Hand Surgery, Mayo's Sharon Theimer, Media Relations, says the coverage has been nothing short of spectacular. "It's received a ton of play, including marquee placement on Yahoo!'s homepage, and the trifecta of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today," she tells us. Theimer says the Yahoo! story alone netted "at least" 1,600 comments the day it was posted, and even on Mayo's intranet, the story "the most commented on item nearly two weeks after being posted."
Alyson Gonzalez, who tracks this kind of thing for the Media Relations team, tells us that in addition to the media outlets mentioned above, Dr. Carlsen's study was picked up by the likes of MPR, CBS News, HealthDay, U.S. News & World Report, Detroit Free Press, Health, TechTimes, MinnPost, Care2, ScienceNews, Bakersfield Californian (our favorite), MedPage Today, Yahoo! France, ANSA(Italian wire agency), and many, many others.
Not bad for your first real foray into this kind of thing, Dr. Carlsen. But the good doctor says that all he really wanted was to make sure people understand the danger that cat bites to the hand can present. "I think that's a message that's important to get out," he says. "And I'm grateful for the media attention for that reason."
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