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We read with great interest the case report of severe vision loss caused by ostrich pecking trauma and would like to bring readers’ attention to a case we recently reported about an adult farm worker who lost his vision as a result of an ostrich attack.1
In our case, a 34 year old man was attacked by the giant bird with consequent severe pain and immediate loss of vision to no light perception. On examination, patient’s right eye had significant proptosis with severe limitations of the globe in all directions and irregular full thickness lacerations of the skin. Exploration of the wound revealed two fragments of bony-like tissue but no fractures. Ultrasound examination and computed tomography scan of the orbits revealed a disorganised right globe with multiple scleral ruptures without any bony fractures. Microscopic examination of bony fragments was consistent with avian rostrum.
Human eye injuries caused by pecking of birds are uncommon and are usually labelled as humorous or incidental, and, consequently, most go unreported. Serious injuries to humans caused by birds have been sparsely reported in the English literature. In the non-English literature, Kuhl reviewed a series of 14 patients with severe eye injuries from 1875 through 1970 caused by birds.2 All were penetrating ocular injuries, and some caused permanent visual injuries and/or blindness.
In general, birds are viewed as presenting less of a danger because of the assumption that the bird will take flight if frightened. On the contrary, some birds show aggressive behaviours related to territoriality or breeding. The male ostrich (a flightless bird) is known to establish territory, display aggressive territorial behaviour, and may attack potential predators.3 These two reports of an ostrich attack causing permanent visual loss in adult humans are the first in the ophthalmic literature and emphasise the potential for serious ocular injuries from birds. People living in rural areas and those who work or plan to visit farms should be aware that territorial behaviour of many domestic animals and birds may be a potential risk factor.