Department header
Bewildering Stories

Challenge 733 Response

Bewildering Stories discusses...

Biting Down

In Gary Clifton’s “Fight Bite,” Dr. Rosetti says that human oral bacteria are so virulent that they will almost certainly cause a severe infection unless a bite wound is treated immediately. Is the claim true or is the doctor exaggerating wildly? Ask your dentist. What other source of microbes might cause a severe infection?

[Gary Clifton] I’ve seen several cases of fight bite, including two on cadavers. Pathologists tell me that infection onset is rapid. And it may occur often enough to be called “common” among the barroom-brawling crowd.

I based the case in The Dead Bin on a real case, where a pimp beat one of his girls so badly that he cut his hand when he broke several of her teeth, which cut through his gloves to his knuckle bones. His hand looked like a cooked ham.

[Bill Kowaleski] Reports say that about 10 to 15 percent of human bite wounds become infected, and hand wounds are the most likely. Delayed or inadequate treatment can have severe consequences.

Not only does the human mouth contain as many as a hundred million organisms, some of them may be very dangerous, such as hepatitis, herpes, syphilis, tuberculosis, and tetanus.

[Don Webb] And if the biter has rabies, that would definitely be cause for concern.

What else might cause trouble, besides what’s in the mouth? One hardly expects barroom brawlers to be so fastidious as to wash their hands before engaging in fisticuffs. Sheer dirt and the skin’s own bacteria are likely to penetrate a hand wound.

Dr. Rosetti may be exaggerating a little, but by no means wildly. A dentist may say that infection from a bite wound is unlikely. That’s true, as far as it goes, but look at it this way:

If you’re holding a poker hand that has six to one odds in your favor, what do you do? You bet big. You’re likely to win, and what do you stand to lose but money?

Turn it around. What if you have one chance in seven of being shot or the equivalent? You may lose not only the poker hand but the hand that holds the cards and, quite possibly, a lot else, as well. Do the odds look so good now?

Given the facts, even barroom brawlers might not need to hear a lecture on risk-benefit analysis before thinking twice about throwing punches. Would that the same could be said of politicians and nuclear weapons.

Copyright © 2017 by Bewildering Stories
(The discussion has been condensed for brevity.)

Home Page