Woman Loses Legs, Fingers to Rare Infection from Dog Bite

A Leander woman's legs were amputated below her knees and nine of her fingers were removed at an Austin hospital Tuesday after she developed a rare infection from a dog bite.

Robin Sullins, 48, received minor bites on her hand and ankle when she tried to separate two squabbling family dogs on Christmas Day. The following night, she went to bed vomiting and feverish. She quickly got worse.

Doctors are awaiting test results from a state lab but are "more than 95 percent sure" that Sullins contracted a severe blood infection caused by bacteria found in the saliva of about a quarter to a third of healthy dogs and cats, said Dr. Kristin Mondy, an infectious diseases physician treating Sullins at University Medical Center Brackenridge. On rare occasions, the bacteria -- Capnocytophaga canimorsus --can cause humans to develop dire complications from even minor bites, Mondy said.

Those at greatest risk have a compromised immune system, abuse alcohol or lack a functioning spleen, according to published studies. But Sullins has none of those risk factors, Mondy said: "We cannot find an underlying condition."

Sullins had said that she wanted her story to be told to raise awareness of the potentially deadly infection.

About half of Americans will be bitten by dog over the course of their lives, and about 1 million people are bitten each year, according to estimates.

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