Family staggers after dog bite, killing healthy Northern Ontario man

Sylvain Boissonneault died June 8 in Health Sciences North, days after being bitten by his husky Tinkerbell, which infected him with Capnocytophaga bacteria

A few days after being accidentally bitten by his two-year-old husky Tinkerbell, Chelmsford man Sylvain Boissonneault died in hospital from complications from Capnocytophaga bacteria in the bite.

“It’s just crazy,” Carolyn Chevrette, the man’s sister, told Sudbury.com, a sister site of SooToday. “So tragic that he died of the animals he loved with all his heart.”

Boissonneault, 56, died June 8, leaving behind daughters Jasmine, 12, and Arey-Elle, 8, of whom he had partial custody.

Chevrette took to Sudbury.com to share her brother’s story and raise awareness of the extremely rare infection that claimed his life. On June 3, she said, Tinkerbell had a seizure, so Boissonneault put his hand in her mouth, thinking he would help prevent her from choking on her tongue. She clung tight and bit his thumb. Capnocytophaga bacteria live in the mouths of dogs and cats. While it doesn’t make the animal sick, it can be deadly in humans.

Tinkerbell’s bite introduced the bacteria into Boissonneault’s body. Boissonneault took Tinkerbell to a vet to get medication for her seizures and “probably downplayed the bite but still never had it checked out,” Chevrette said.

Two days later, Chevrette said her brother had developed a fever, so he called a virtual clinic, mentioned the dog bite, and was told it was the flu. “We kept telling him to get it checked, but he was quite a hesitant and said it was just a dog bite,” Chevrette said.

On the night of June 7, Boissonneault suffered from fever, sweats and aching joints while spending the night alone at his home in Chelmsford. In the morning he called an ambulance. His mother and sister found out at 8 a.m. on June 8 and met him at Health Sciences North. Chevrette picked up her nieces from school to see him.

He was coherent at the time and believed he would be released from the hospital within days.

“He told us all that; “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’ll be out of here soon,” Chevrette said, adding that it appeared to be as his blood work looked promising. However, his health deteriorated badly that evening when Boissonneault developed a toxic blood infection. He died at 10:25 p.m., less than 18 hours after his admission.

Boissonneault always took great care of his dogs, Chevrette said, and his obituary notes that he is “now dating his dogs, Tiara and Pressor.”

Tiara was a black Lab mix who lived to be 18, and Pressor was a 13-year-old yellow Lab mix who died a few days before Tinkerbell had her seizure.

“He always had dogs, and they were his children alongside his real children; Those were his fur babies, he adored them,” Chevrette said. “People are just shocked. Everyone who knows him is shocked that he died from a dog bite.”

A Health Sciences North spokesman referred Sudbury.com to Public Health Sudbury and Districts for comment on Capnocytophaga bacteria. In turn, the spokesman for the health unit clarified that they have no information on its prevalence in the region as it is not labeled a “disease of public health importance”.

However, they advised people to report animal bites to their local health authority and ensure pets have up-to-date rabies vaccinations.

That federal government reports that Capnocytophaga affected 200 people between 1976 and 2010, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The fatality rate is reportedly around 30 percent.

“If you’ve been bitten by a dog or cat, even if you don’t feel sick, wash the bite site with soap and water immediately and call your doctor,” urges the CDC website. “That’s because dog and cat bites can pose a risk for rabies and capnocytophaga.”

Boissonneault was the owner and operator of AirTech Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, whose loyal customers have shared their condolences with family, friends and employees over the past few days, according to Chevrette.

Tinkerbell remains in quarantine at Boissonneault’s home, where she is routinely examined, although Chevrette has made it clear that there is nothing wrong with the husky.

Although infection with Capnocytophaga bacteria is rare in humans, it is common in dogs and cats. What will become of Tinkerbell remains to be seen, because Chevrette’s duplex household already includes two dogs, two cats and two guinea pigs.

Tyler Clarke reports on City Hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

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