In Brief

Woman Dies After Getting Nipped by Her New Puppy

A shih tzu puppy.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A tiny nip from a puppy may have led to a fatal infection for a Wisconsin woman, according to news reports.

The woman, 58-year-old Sharon Larson of South Milwaukee, had just adopted a puppy when it nipped her and caused a small cut, according to local news outlet WTMJ. Larson soon began experiencing flu-like symptoms, and her husband took her to the hospital.

Within just two days, Larson had died, WTMJ reported.

Larson tested positive for Capnocytophaga, a bacterium commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats, which can spread through bites, scratches and even licks from pets. Although most people who have contact with dogs and cats won't get sick with Capnocytophaga, in rare cases, the bacteria can cause illness, and even death, in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [11 Ways Your Beloved Pet May Make You Sick]

"I was told she could get struck by lightning four times and live, win the lottery twice … that's how rare this is supposed to be," Sharon Larson's husband, Dan Larson, told WTMJ. 

People are at greater risk of Capnocytophaga infection if they have weakened immune systems — for example, if they have cancer, diabetes or HIV — or if they've had their spleen removed, the CDC says. (It's unclear if Larson had a condition that weakened her immune system.) Most infections with the bacteria occur in people older than 40, the CDC says.

Although infections with Capnocytophaga are rare, they can be deadly: About 30 percent of people who get infected with Capnocytophaga die, and some infections can lead to death within 24 to 72 hours after symptoms appear, according to the CDC.

In an unrelated case, a 48-year-old man in Wisconsin recently developed a blood infection with Capnocytophaga that required doctors to amputate his legs and parts of his arms. In that man's case, doctors think a dog was also the likely source of the infection.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.