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FRIDAY, March 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Only three deaths due to shark attacks occurred worldwide in 2014, according to new research.
None of these occurred in the United States. One fatal shark attack was reported in South Africa, and two occurred in Australia last year, the researchers found.
Over the past decade, there were an average of six deaths per year from shark attacks worldwide, the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File report said.
Fewer fatalities are likely the result of improvement in beach safety, medical care and greater awareness of how to prevent being attacked by a shark, suggested George Burgess, curator of world shark attack data at the university's Museum of Natural History.
Despite the decline in deaths, the report found the number of nonfatal shark attacks actually increased slightly in the United States. Florida, in particular, had 28 shark attacks -- more than half of the 52 attacks reported in the United States in 2014. But the researchers pointed out that many of these attacks didn't result in serious injuries.
"Most of them are better called bites than attacks. They're the equivalent of dog bites," Burgess said in a university news release.
Seven shark attacks also occurred in Hawaii, five took place in South Carolina and four shark attacks occurred in both North Carolina and California, the report showed. Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas had one attack each.
Around the world, shark attacks fell from 75 to 72 last year, but over the past decade there has been a steady increase in these incidents. The researchers expect this trend to continue as the population and the number of people engaging in water-related activities increases.
"I am willing to predict that there will be more attacks in the second decade of this century than there were in the first," Burgess said.
Despite this increasing trend, being attacked by a shark is still highly unlikely. Beachgoers have a better chance of winning the lottery, the scientist noted.
"It's amazing, given the billions of hours humans spend in the water, how uncommon attacks are," Burgess said, "but that doesn't make you feel better if you're one of them."
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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