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Extremely Rare, Deadly Infection From Dogs And Cats Hits Twice In 1 Month

Aug 12, 2018 07:41 PM EDT
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A doggie kiss is adorable and usually harmless, but it can transmit an infection that has killed one and injured another in just one month.

The Capnocytophaga bacteria do not make dogs or cats sick, but it can trigger deadly consequences in humans as evidenced by the two extreme cases in Wisconsin last June.

Pet Bacteria Wreaks Havoc In Wisconsin

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the Capnocytophaga bacteria seldom transfer and cause sickness in humans. Those with existing illnesses or a weakened immune system are more prone to it, but even then, infection is rare.

"It's just a matter of chance if the dog or cat has sufficient amount of bacteria in the saliva, and if it was inoculated deeply enough to cause a problem," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains. "It's a little bit like being struck by lightning."

Lightning seems to have struck twice in Wisconsin in June. On June 23, 58-year-old Sharon Larson of Milwaukee passed away following a nip by her own dog Bo. She spent just two days in the hospital before succumbing to her sickness, according to NBC Chicago.

The same month saw Greg Manteufel, 48, diagnosed with the rare blood infection as well. Within a week of being confined, doctors amputated his legs, then his arms in a desperate attempt to save his life.

His wife Dawn Manteufel told Washington Post that the painter loves dogs and was around eight dogs at the time of his sickness. Any of these canines could have passed on the bacteria to him. Fortunately, Manteufel pulled through despite losing all his limbs.

Signs, Symptoms Of Capnocytophaga

According to Schaffner, it is still unclear why certain people get ill from the bacteria and others do not. After all, both Larson and Manteufel appear healthy as neither of them displayed the risk factors noted by the CDC.

The fast-acting nature of the bacteria makes it important to watch out for the signs. Some of the symptoms include blisters surrounding the bite within hours, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting, headache, confusion, muscle pain, and redness, swelling, draining pus, or pain in the bite wound.

Don't Jump To Conclusions

While the sudden and devastating onset of the disease in the two Wisconsin residents are quite scary, Schaffner says that the public should be careful of overreacting.

"We don't want to strike fear in the hearts of all dog and cat owners," he says, adding that the back-to-back cases are extremely rare.

Individuals who are injured and appear to be getting worse are advised to get medical help as soon as possible.

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