An elderly woman has died after being attacked by a rooster on her rural property in Australia in what experts are describing as a “fatal rooster attack”.
The 76-year-old unnamed woman was reportedly collecting eggs when a domestic rooster pecked her lower left leg, causing “significant hemorrhage with collapse and death”. An autopsy of her left leg showed that it was covered in sticky dried blood near two small bleeding lacerations, one of which was located immediately over a “perforated large varix,” write medical experts in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology.
Her death was therefore due to “exsanguination” – blood being drained from the body – from “bleeding varicose veins” following the attack by her rooster.
The woman had a history of treated medical conditions that may have affected her body’s ability to regulate blood, including high blood pressure, or hypertension, high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), type 2 diabetes, and enlarged or twisted veins known as varicose veins. Though varicose veins are usually benign and treatable, bleeding from one that has become punctured is a medical emergency, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The condition occurs when blood pressure builds inside the veins and is fairly common, affecting up to a quarter of all adults and as many as half of people aged 50 and older. A number of case studies in recent years have explored deaths related to varicose vein injury, including the unrelated deaths of 55- and 66-year-old hemorrhaging victims and an 85-year-old man who died in his bathtub.
Though fatal rooster attacks are incredibly rare, the authors say the case study represents how even the smallest, most harmless-seeming animals can pose a threat to vulnerable people, including the elderly.
“This case demonstrates that even relatively small domestic animals may be able to inflict lethal injuries in individuals if there are specific vascular vulnerabilities present,” write the researchers.
Professor Roger Byard at the University of Adelaide in Australia told IFLScience that such attacks are completely preventable. "The case is significant as it draws attention to the vulnerability of elderly folk with varicose veins to minor trauma, even from a rooster peck. Lethal rooster attacks are very rare, but small animals can cause death from trauma," he wrote in an email.
Treat all animals, even small ones with respect, Byard advises.
"If you have varicose veins have them treated. If you have them untreated, be very careful of minor injuries," he added. "These deaths are preventable. If a vein is punctured apply pressure to the bleeding point, lie down, elevate the leg and get help."