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A warning about the danger of dog bites was issued after a woman suddenly died of sepsis after rescuing the dog of a stranger who was fighting one of her pets.
Stacey Alexander-Harriss, 42, was originally believed to have died of Covid by doctors less than 12 hours after being rushed to King George Hospital in Ilford by ambulance.
But her husband, Nick Harriss, discovered three months later that what he suspected was that her death was caused by sepsis instead.
Ms. Alexander-Harriss was bitten by a small poodle on June 15 last year while walking her two bull terriers next to the Thames in Canada Water before visiting a friend on her first day after the first ban was lifted.
Her friend cleaned and bandaged the bite. Ms. Alexander-Harriss did not seek a tetanus injection like she had one a few years earlier that offered her protection.
She felt unwell the next day and worse the next day. She showed symptoms similar to food poisoning. Her husband called the NHS 111 hotline, notified the doctor he spoke to about the dog bite, and an ambulance was dropped off. She was admitted to King George’s A&E Hospital.
Mr Harriss, a financial advisor, told Standard: “During the night they said she was very seriously ill – I was not allowed to accompany or visit her due to Covid restrictions.
“At that point, I thought she might have one of those superbugs like MRSA. She was taken to the intensive care unit by A&E.
“In the morning I got the call that none of us would like to receive and said that unfortunately she had passed away. It was 12 hours before she was first seen by the ambulance and died. “
Stacey with one of her dogs, Tommy
East London coroner Nadia Persaud said in a narrative verdict that Ms. Alexander-Harriss, a children’s book author and designer from Ilford, “died of an overwhelming bacterial infection caused by a dog bite.”
The coroner has sent Public Health England a report on the prevention of future deaths warning that there is a “lack of knowledge” in the medical community about the bacteria Capncytophagia canimorsus, which are common in the mouths of dogs and cats.
She said raising awareness could prevent similar tragedies – adding that earlier antibiotics administration “may have made a difference” to saving Ms. Alexander-Harriss.
Mr Harriss said the hospital told him on June 18 that his wife’s death “looks like a covid”, even though he knew she hadn’t shown any of the obvious symptoms and that her illness had emerged very quickly.
“It wasn’t a serious wound that I think a lot of the problems stemmed from,” he told the Standard.
“If it had been a severe wound, or if it had been bitten by a Doberman rather than a small poodle, it would have likely gone to A&E and they might have taken the wound itself more seriously.”
In September, tests on blood samples taken at the time of her hospitalization showed the presence of the bacteria.
Mr. Harriss recalled, “The rescue team wasn’t very concerned about the dog bite, but they were concerned about their blood pressure and heartbeat. There was no obvious sign of infection and the wound was clean. They were particularly concerned that she was very dehydrated after her illness.
“It is a very unusual event. What is worrying, however, is that A&E doctors don’t know that a dog bite that doesn’t ooze pus or is a wound that needs suturing is still a problem if the patient shows signs of sepsis.
“The big question is straightforward: If she had been pumped full of antibiotics as soon as she arrived, would it have made any difference? What is clear is that the hospital did not see the dog bite as a problem. They were convinced at the time that she had died of Covid and much of their treatment was related to Covid.
“The doctors at A&E and ICU admitted they were completely unaware of this type of bacteria when I asked them about the test. It seems ridiculous to me not to give her antibiotics right away. “
Public Health England said, “We can confirm the coroner’s report has been received and PHE will respond by July 2nd.”
Kathryn Halford, Head Nurse at Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust who runs King George Hospital, said: “This has been a very tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family of Ms. Alexander-Harriss.
“This future death prevention report, addressed to Public Health England, will play an important role in raising awareness of the organism Capncytophagia canimorsus among health professionals across the country.”