Cats and dogs can pass on infections and other illnesses

Cats and dogs can pass on infections and other illnesses

Originally published on MINNPOST

Within the last few weeks, a rare blood infection, caused by a species of bacteria found in the mouths of cats and dogs, killed a 58-year-old woman in Milwaukee and caused another Wisconsinite, a 48-year-old South Bend housepainter, to lose his legs and hands.

The bacteria species is Capnocytophaga canimorsus, which exists in the saliva of up to 74 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, despite the bacteria’s pervasiveness, cases of people becoming infected with it are extremely unusual. A CDC spokesman told NBC News that the agency received only 12 reports of such cases in 2017.

When people do become infected, however, the outcome can be devastating. It can quickly cause septicemia (a blood infection) or endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), leading to amputations (from gangrene), heart attacks and death.

Usually, the infection spreads through a dog or cat bite, although the CDC says it can sometimes jump to people through close contact with one of those animals. The family of the Milwaukee woman who died told doctors that she had received a “pinprick” of a bite from her dog days earlier. The housepainter had apparently been licked, but not bitten, by a dog. The bacteria may have entered his body through an open cut of some kind.

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