Two Capnocytophaga infections have been reported of late, one causing a quadruple amputation, and the other causing the death of a woman. Is there a need to worry about these supposedly very rare infections?

Death And Amputation From Dog Lick And Dog Bite

Last June, a Wisconsin man had to have his four limbs amputated as a result of a severe infection that stemmed from being licked by a dog. Now, it is revealed that in the same month that he had the ordeal, a Wisconsin woman lost her life just days after being nicked by her dog.

On June 19, 58-year-old Sharon Larson was nipped in the finger by her dog Bo, which resulted in a very small wound described as a mere “pin prick.” By the next evening, she was already feeling ill, and by the afternoon after that, she was already too weak to even hold a glass of water.

She was sent to the urgent care center where she complained of stomach and leg pains, and where doctors learned that her kidneys were already failing. At that point, doctors believed that her condition was not related to the dog bite until June 22 when capnocytophaga was identified in her blood. Unfortunately, her body had begun to shut down and on June 23, Larson passed away.

Larson’s passing happened just days before Greg Manteufel also caught the infection, this time from a dog lick, and caused the amputation of four limbs. Despite these unfortunate cases, Manteufel is said to remain positive, while the Larson family’s love for Bo remains the same.

Is It Time To Worry About The ‘Rare’ Infection?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Capnocytophaga is a common bacteria that can normally be found in the mouths of dogs and cats. While passing the bacteria onto humans is possible and may cause illness, such cases are said to be rare and often occurs in those who have had their spleens removed or those with compromised immune systems such as those who drink alcohol excessively, or those with HIV or cancer.

However, in both Larson and Manteufel’s cases, neither individual had compromised immune systems as both were considered healthy individuals. This begs the question of whether the infection may not be as rare as believed.

As strange as it seems to have two cases of capnocytophaga infections just days apart and several miles apart, according to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the cases are “extremely rare” and it is still not clear why some get sick from the bacteria while others don’t. Further, he explains that it’s just a matter of chance as to whether the dog or cat had an ample amount of bacteria in their saliva, and if it was introduced deeply enough to the body to cause a problem.

“It’s a little bit like being struck by lightning,” says Shaffner.

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