The long-ago summer of 2018 taught us to learn from the sad experiences of others. And we'll think twice now before letting our dog or someone else's dog lick or nibble us. Indeed, the bacteria C. canimorsus has struck again.
In June 2018, in Wisconsin, Sharon Larson had just adopted a puppy. She was playing with him when Bo, her new four-legged companion, nibbled her and accidentally broke the skin. The 58-year-old American then found herself with a slight cut on her skin and quickly began to experience severe symptoms that resembled those of the flu. After a few days and following the aggravation of her condition, she was taken to the A&E. Antibiotics were given to her but they were ineffective. She died 48 hours later.
According to doctors and following tests, Sharon Larson was contaminated by the bacterium Capnocytophaga canimorsus.
A supposedly rare infection
It was very hard to see Dan Larson coping with the sudden death of his wife during an interview on WTMJ-TV, a local channel in Milwaukee (USA):
I was told that she could have been struck by lightning 4 times and survive or she could have won the lottery twice. This is how rare this infection is supposed to be.
However, a few weeks ago, another person was also suffering from septicemia linked to this bacterium. Greg Manteufel, also from Wisconsin, had four limbs amputated after being licked by a dog.
Frequently found in the saliva of dogs, but also cats and sometimes humans, C. canimorsus is generally safe.
As the New York Post reports, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ‘it is extremely rare for humans who come into contact with this bacteria to develop this disease.’
However, it is clear that some people may be more likely to be affected than others: adults over 40, those who struggle with alcoholism and those with weakened immune systems.