A Milwaukee woman died from a rare infection that may have been caused by a nip from a puppy, her family and doctors said, marking the second such case of the infection reported in Wisconsin this summer.
Sharon Larson had just gotten her new dog Bo in June when the pooch nipped at her, causing a small cut.
But when Larson quickly developed severe flu-like symptoms that lasted for days, the 58-year-old was rushed to the hospital. Within two days, she had died, her family said.
“I was told she could get struck by lightning four times and live, win the lottery twice,” her husband Dan Larson told NBC affiliate WTMJ. “That’s how rare this is supposed to be."
Doctors told the family Larson tested positive for Capnocytophaga, a bacteria commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats.
It is the same bacterial infection doctors believe a Wisconsin man contracted from a dog lick in late June. Surgeons have had to amputate part of Greg Manteufel's legs and hands after he contracted a rare blood infection caused by Capnocytophaga canimorsus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes adults 40 years old and older are more likely to contract the rare infection, and risk factors include alcoholism and weak immune system related to cancer, HIV and diabetes. Another key risk factor is not having a spleen.
Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, an infectious disease specialist with Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, told TMJ4 the number of such cases are not reported "because they are fairly infrequent."
“We are exposed to many, many, many organisms every day and most of us - the majority, 99.99 percent of people - never get infection,” she said.
Dogs and cats can test positive for the bacteria one day and not the next, officials said. But the pets are not prescribed medicine for it because the bacteria is a natural part of the animals’ systems.
“I feel like I got robbed. Lost my right arm. My best friend,” Dan Larson said.