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Healthy German man died after being licked by dog, getting infection

A German man died after contracting a rare bacteria after being licked by his dog, a new paper published by German researchers found.

The 63-year-old, who was otherwise healthy, was hospitalized with fever, severe difficulty breathing, blood spots on his skin, and pain in his legs, per a paper published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine.

“He had been touched and licked, but not bitten or injured, by his dog, his only pet, in previous weeks,” doctors from Red Cross Hospital in Bremen, Germany, noted in the report.

Over the next 30 hours, the report said, the man developed encephalopathy, brain damage, and paralytic ileus, or paralysis of the intestine. He also suffered cardiac arrest. 

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After 16 days of intensive treatment, the patient died.

The man’s death was caused by capnocytophaga canimorsus, a rare bacteria that naturally occurs in dog and cat mouths, and is most commonly transmitted through dog bites. 

Individuals with a weak immune system, a history of alcoholism or their spleens removed are especially vulnerable to the infection, researchers noted. The Centers for Disease Control notes the infection is more likely to take place in individuals over the age of 40.

A Wisconsin man’s legs, hands and nose were amputated after being licked by a dog in 2018. In 2016, a BMJ medical report found a greyhound owner who made a full recovery after two weeks of intensive care.

“Pet owners with banal, for instance flu-like, symptoms should urgently seek medical advice when symptoms are unusual,” wrote the doctors, noting that this man had trouble breathing and blood spots. They advised that physicians should ask about contact with pets if a patient comes to them with these symptoms.

Contributing: Ashley May, USA TODAY. Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote


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