Woman dies after getting infection from dog bite

Published: Aug. 10, 2018 at 6:13 PM EDT
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Looking through old photos is bittersweet.

"Brings back the good memories," Dan Larson said.

Dan’s wife, Sharon, died suddenly near the end of June. She was 58, a devoted mother and grandmother.

"I feel like I got robbed,” Larson said. “(I) lost my right arm. My best friend."

Their new dog, Bo, nipped at Sharon, causing a small cut.

After severe flu-like symptoms, Dan brought her to Wheaton Franciscan. Within two days, she was gone.

Doctors told him she tested positive for Capnositopefaga, a bacteria found in the saliva of most dogs and cats.

For most of us, it has no effect. But for some like Sharon, it can have devastating consequences.

"She could get struck by lightning 4 times and live, win the lottery twice. That’s how rare this is supposed to be," Larson said.

Infectious disease doctor Silvia Munoz-Price says people should not panic over these recent cases.

"It is not reported because they are fairly infrequent,” Munoz-Prince says. “We are exposed to many, many organisms. Everything. 99.999 percent never get infections."

The people who typically are affected are over 40, have weakened immune systems, have had their spleen removed, or compromised liver function.

When it comes to dogs and cats, they can test positive for the bacteria one day, and not the next. It’s not practical for vets to prescribe medicine, because the bacteria is a normal part of an animal's system.

As he clings to the photos, and memories of his wife, Dan hopes something more is done, to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

"I had a good 43 years married,” Larson said. “I’ll never lose or forget about them."

Signs a person has become infected with this particular bacteria include blisters and redness around the bite wound, fever, diarrhea, headache and joint pain.