- An Ohio woman woke up from a coma with her limbs partially amputated after she developed gangrene from Capnocytophaga bacteria.
- Doctors believe the infection developed after the woman’s dogs licked a small scrape on her arm.
- Most healthy pets carry the Capnocytophaga bacteria.
- While 30% of serious Capnocytophaga infections are fatal, most people aren’t at risk.
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An Ohio woman felt like she had the flu, laid down on the couch, and woke up 10 days later to find both of her arms partially amputated. According to Fox 8, doctors had fought to save her life (and limbs) by removing the many clots in her arms and legs, which had caused gangrene, or a death of tissue. But too much damage had already been done.
A blood test and cultures confirmed that the infection was from Capnocytophaga bacteria, believed to have been transmitted after the woman’s dogs licked a scrape on her arm, Fox 8 reported.
While serious Capnocytophaga infections in humans is rare, the bacteria itself is common in healthy cats and dogs.As many as 74% of dogs have the bacteria in their mouths, and never get sick themselves. Cats are also hosts to Capnocytophaga,although they’re less likely to transmit it to humans.
The vast majority of people who interact with pets won’t get sick. However, people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and people bitten by animals may be at risk.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Thomas Butler previously told INSIDER that Capnocytophaga bacteria can be spread when saliva comes in contact with an open wound, anywhere the skin is broken, or a mucous membrane like your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is why a lick from your favourite furry friend, especially on your face, can be a problem.
A Capnocytophaga infection can cause flu-like symptoms
Blisters, fever, confusion, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain can appear anywhere from 1 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The infection can escalate to potentially deadly complications like sepsis, a life-threatening inflammation caused by the body fighting off illness. High fever, chills, extreme pain, shortness of breath, high heart rate, dizziness, and clammy, sweaty skin are all signs of sepsisl
If you suspect an infection and your condition rapidly worsens, seek medical help immediately. The infection can also cause necrosis and gangrene, or tissue death, which may require amputation.
Anything that weakens your immune system can up your risk of Capnocytophaga infection
Elderly people are particularly susceptible to sepsis from Capnocytophaga infections, according to a 2016 case report, because the immune system can decline with age. Older folks may also be more likely to own pets, the report stated.
Other risk factors include illnesses like HIV or cancer, certain types of medication, and even drinking heavily.
Dog bites are most likely to put you at risk of Capnocytophaga infection
Dogs are more likely to transmit the bacteria than cats, though most often through bites. Still, scratches from either animal can spread germs, so you should always wash any animal bites or scratches with soap and water right away – they can carry a lot more than bacteria, including rabies.
Although 50% of Americans are likely to be bitten by a dog at least once in their lifetime, Capnocytophaga is still extremely rare – just 54 human cases were reported from 1972 to 2004, according to one study. About 200 human cases have been reported worldwide since 1976, according to another study from 2011.
The lesson? Keep playing with your pets, just be sure to properly wash your hands (and any slobbered on body parts) afterward.