Pet-lovers everywhere know there are risks involved with having pets. What they don’t expect is that a harmless lick or a dog bite could turn deadly.
However, two dangerous cases in Wisconsin have recently spiked awareness for Capnocytophaga, a rare disease caused by bacteria in a dog’s or cat’s mouth.
According to NBC News, 58-year-old Sharon Larson received a small nip in the hand by her beloved new puppy Bo. Larson and her husband didn’t think anything of the dog bite, even when she started feeling ill the next day.
As her flu-like symptoms worsened, however, her husband knew it was a deeper problem and took her to the hospital. Within days, the infection had taken her life.
What to Know about Capnocytophaga
As many as 74 percent of dogs harbor this potentially harmful bacteria along with 57 percent of cats, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For them, the bacteria is a normal part of their body’s system and doesn’t cause sickness. The bacteria can create problems for some humans, though.
Even still, experts deem this type of infection rare for humans to catch. People with weakened immune systems are most at risk, says the CDC, including those who drink alcohol excessively or have HIV or cancer.
The interesting part in these two Wisconsin cases is that neither fell into these categories. Both people had relatively healthy immune systems.
In fact, the first case has left the doctors and patient somewhat bewildered — Greg Manteufel only remembers petting several dogs before feeling ill. None of the dogs had bitten him.
Manteufel’s infection ended in amputation of both arms and legs to save his life.
Because Capnocytophaga is so rare, experts don’t fully understand why some people get infected and others don’t. These two cases show that even healthy individuals may be prone.
Treatment for Capnocytophaga includes receiving antibiotics to fight the bacteria. It’s important for suspected cases to head to the hospital right away in case the infection has entered the bloodstream.
Despite this scare, pet-lovers shouldn’t let fear of this disease get them down. They can simply watch for unusual symptoms after coming into contact with a dog or cat, especially if bitten. Otherwise, chances are healthy individuals won’t deal with a pet problem this drastic.