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Healthy man dies weeks after being licked by his dog

WASHINGTON • The 63-year-old man showed up in hospital with a burning sensation in his left leg and muscle pain in both limbs. His flu-like symptoms were severe, with laboured breathing for three days.

He had petechiae, or round spots on the skin that look like rashes as a result of bleeding capillaries, which made his legs look discoloured.

The man’s heartbeat was stable, doctors said, although he was running a temperature of 38.9 deg C.

His belaboured breathing caused an inadequate supply of oxygen to his tissue. His failing kidneys were not producing urine, researchers wrote. But doctors had no idea what was wrong with him.

They suspected some kind of bacteria, but he did not have any open wounds or meningitis. It was not until his fourth day in the hospital that a blood test revealed bacteria in his body that are found in the saliva of healthy dogs and cats. The bacteria are usually only transmitted to humans if they are bitten.

But the German man is dead because his dog licked him.

A paper published in the European Journal Of Case Reports In Internal Medicine details how an otherwise healthy man lost his life within weeks of being infected by bacteria found in his dog’s saliva.

Doctors at the hospital determined that he had multiple, serious ailments: kidney injury, signs of liver dysfunction and rhabdomyolysis, a deterioration of muscle tissue that can result in kidney failure.

He also had a build-up of lactic acid in his bloodstream. Once he was transferred to an intensive care unit, he was diagnosed as having severe sepsis with skin death and blood clotting, or purpura fulminans, according to doctors.

He was treated with antibiotics, but his health took a rapid decline for the worst over the next 30 hours, according to the paper. The doctors noted brain disease, intestinal blockage caused by paralysis, blood clotting and kidney failure.

The man entered cardiac arrest and was successfully resuscitated, according to the paper, but he was then intubated and placed on a breathing machine.

Researchers warn dog and cat owners who experience flu-like symptoms to quickly seek medical care when their symptoms surpass what is normal for a viral infection.

Low blood pressure became an issue, so he was treated for that. Medical staff gave him red blood cells, transfused platelets and provided him with fresh, frozen plasma.

The doctors started kidney dialysis. After they ran the test that finally showed the C. canimorsus infection, doctors added another antibiotic and an anti-fungal treatment to the patient’s medical routine as some of his afflictions waned and others worsened. The treatment was too late.

Towards the end of his life, all of his extremities had gangrene and a CT scan showed that he had severe brain swelling with a lack of oxygen, according to the paper.

The man’s relatives made a decision to reduce his treatment.

He died after 16 days of care, according to doctors.

Researchers noted that C. canimorsus infections are rare with a range of symptoms.

Most patients who have had severe or fatal infections from the bacteria have had immune, spleen or alcohol abuse issues, they wrote. But the patient’s medical history did not indicate such ailments.

Researchers warn dog and cat owners who experience flu-like symptoms to quickly seek medical care when their symptoms surpass what is normal for a viral infection.

About 25 per cent of people with C. canimorsus infections will die, according to the paper.

Last year, a Wisconsin man lost his legs, hands and nose after contracting the same bacteria from his dog’s saliva. He is walking again with the help of prosthetics, FOX 6 reported. In July, an Ohio woman had both her arms and legs partially amputated after waking from a coma that was caused by C. canimorsus, Fox 8 Cleveland reported.

WASHINGTON POST

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