WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A woman from Wisconsin died after being infected by bacteria found in the saliva of both dogs and cats.
- Another case of the rare infection left a man, also from Wisconsin, a quadruple amputee.
- Both patients’ blood tested positive with Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a relatively common bacteria in dogs and cats that can make humans ill.
Sharon Larson of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, felt ill on June 20th after her puppy nipped her hand. She died two days later at age 58.
Greg Manteufel, 48, of West Bend, Wisconsin, also felt ill in June. His family rushed him to a hospital when he suddenly was unable to walk. His face also started to turn black and blue. Doctors had to amputate both hands and both lower legs to save his life. Though he was not bitten by a dog, he’s lived with a few of them all his life.
Doctors found them both positive with Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria found in the mouths of dogs and cats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria don’t harm the animals but can make humans ill, especially those with low immune systems.
Both Larson and Manteufel, however, were both healthy. What’s even more baffling is that both cases happened the same month and the two patients live about two miles away from each other.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said that the infection is extremely rare.
“We don’t know why some people get very ill from it and some don’t. This can affect a perfectly normal person,” Schaffner told NBC News on Friday.
The doctor added that generally, the bacteria enters the skin through a bite or an open wound.
But in Manteufel’s case, he was not bitten, making it more difficult to understand how the bacteria enter the bloodstream.
In an email to NBC News, a spokesman for the Manteufels said that he may have touched his eyes or mouth after petting the dogs.
“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,” Schaffner said. “It’s a little bit like being struck by lightning.”
Schaffner cautioned against panicking.
“We don’t want to strike fear in the hearts of all dog and cat owners. This is a very rare event,” he said.
But he advised that if you feel ill after being bitten by a dog or cat, seek medical attention immediately.