A woman in Wisconsin died in June after a nip from her small dog caused a deadly infection by capnocytophaga bacteria.
“I feel like I got robbed, lost my best friend, my wife”. says Dan, the husband of 58 year old Sharon, who died. After severe flu like symptoms she was taken to the hospital, where she died 2 days later.
Doctors told her husband that she tested positive for Capnocytophaga, which is a bacteria commonly found in the saliva of most dogs and cats. It has no effect on most humans, but for a very rare few, it can have serious complications.
“It is not reported because it is fairly infrequent.” says an infectious disease doctor. “99.999 percent of people never get infections.”
The people who are most likely to be affected by this bacteria are:
- Over 40 years old
- Have a weakened immune system
- No Spleen
- Compromised Liver Function
Most troublesome is that dogs (and cats) can test positive for the bacteria one day but not the next. The bacteria is a normal part of a dog’s system, which is why it is not practical for vets to prescribe medicine. The animals themselves don’t become ill by the bacteria. If it is spread to humans through their saliva, humans can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Severe sepsis and fatal septic shock
- Gangrene of the digits of extremities.
A man from West Bend, also in Wisconsin, recently made the news for having contracted the same rare blood infection from a dog lick in June and having parts of his limbs amputated just days later. He also exhibited flu-like symptoms prior to almost losing his life. Greg Manteufel is trying to keep a positive attitude. He has undergone seven surgeries with many more anticipated in the future. His body had decreased circulation to this limbs in response to the infections, causing doctors to have to amputate his legs and forearms. As his situation had grown critical, he told doctors at Froedtert Hospital, “Do whatever you have to do to keep me alive.”
Unlike Sharon, who had a cut from the dog bite, Manteufel says he was at a birthday party and touched a whole lot of dogs without any scratches or bites resulting.
“I touched all the dogs that were there, I pet ’em all, I love dogs,” he says. “What might have happened was I touched one of the dogs or they licked my hand and then I rubbed my eye or my mouth or something, because I didn’t have any scratches or bites on me, open sores or nothing like that… I’ve been around dogs my whole life, having them lick at me in my face and hands and everywhere,” he explains. “The doctors told me I could have probably hit the lottery five times that day before I should have got what I got that day from a dog.”
He owns a pit bull of his own, and never had any health issues result from petting a dog before.
The CDC reports that about 3 in every 10 people who become infected with capnocytophaga die, with death occurring in as little as 24 to 72 hours after symptoms start.
Read another article: Can Humans Catch Dog Flu?