Only two days after being lightly chewed by the puppy she had just adopted, a 58-year-old American woman died. The reason? The bacterium Capnocytophaga canimorsus that can be found in the saliva of some dogs. The fatal outcome of this infection is thought to be rare, yet can happen from time to time.
Last June, in Wisconsin, Sharon Larson just adopted a puppy. She played with him every day. Bo, her new companion on all fours, chewed and bit accidentally. The 58-year-old American then finds herself with a slight cut on the skin and quickly begins to experience severe symptoms that resemble those of the flu.
After a few days and following the worsening of her condition, she is taken to the emergency room. Antibiotics were administered but they were ineffective. 48 hours later, she had died. According to doctors and following the tests, Sharon Larson was contaminated by the bacterium Capnocytophaga canimorsus.
A supposedly rare infection
For Dan Larson, it was very hard to see the sudden death of his wife. In an interview on WTMJ-TV, a local channel in Milwaukee (USA), he said “I was told that she could have been beaten 4 times by lightning and survive or could have won the lottery twice, this is how rare this infection is.”
Yet a few weeks ago, another person was also suffering from septicemia linked to this bacterium. Also from Wisconsin, Greg Manteufel had four limbs amputated after being licked by a dog. Frequently present in the saliva of dogs, but also cats and sometimes humans, C. canimorsus bacteria is usually safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “it is extremely rare for humans who come in contact with this bacteria to develop this disease.” However, it is clear that some people may be more likely than others. These include adults over 40, subjects with alcoholism and those with weakened immune systems.
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