What Is Capnocytophaga? Woman Dies From Bacterial Infection Caused by Dog Nip

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When Sharon Larson complained of feeling sick, her husband simply thought she’d got the flu. Days later the Wisconsin woman died of an infection believed to have been caused by bacteria in dog saliva.

In the second case of its kind in Wisconsin this summer, the 58-year-old’s new puppy Bo bit her causing a small cut, NBC affiliate Chicago 5 reported.

Larson quickly came down with flu-like symptoms which wouldn’t budge. Two days later, she was dead.

She tested positive for capnocytophaga, a species of bacteria which inhabits the mouths of dogs and cats. Around one in 10 people who get infected with the bacteria die, in some cases as quickly as 24 to 72 hours after symptoms show.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, it is rare for capnocytophaga to spread to humans. But when it does, it’s usually through a bite or scratch, or during close contact with an animal who is sick.

As the infection is what is known as opportunistic, those with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of falling ill. As many as 74 percent of dogs have capnocytophaga  in their mouths, and 57 percent of cats.

Symptoms of capnocytophaga infection include blisters around the bite wound which appear within hours, as well as redness and swelling. A fever can also hit, as well as diarrhea and vomiting, stomach pain, headache and discomfort in the muscles.

These generally appear three to five days after a person is infected, but anywhere between one to 14 days.

Her husband Dan Larson said told Chicago 5: “I feel like I got robbed. Lost my right arm. My best friend.”

Her death comes days after surgeons were forced to amputate the hands and legs of Greg Manteufel, also from Wisconsin. Just like Larson, Manteufel fell ill with flu-like symptoms. A week after being rushed to hospital he had the limbs removed. 

“Sometimes [blood pressure]decreases so much that the arms and legs just die,” Silvia Munoz-Price, an infectious disease specialist with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, told Fox 6. 

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