Girl grabbed by sea lion getting meds to avoid ‘seal finger’ disease

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RICHMOND, British Columbia — The girl pulled in the harbor by a sea lion in a heart-stopping viral video is on antibiotics to avoid contracting a dangerous bacterial disease from the sea lion’s mouth.

The 6-year-old’s father told CNN affiliate CBC that she has a superficial wound on her lower body from when the sea lion grabbed her.

The girl’s family contacted the Vancouver Aquarium after seeing its expert discuss the possibility of seal finger on the news.

A “rare and very scary” infection

“The family saw media reports in which our marine mammal trainer recommended they call us, and they did get in touch,” Deana Lancaster, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Aquarium, told CNN. “There was no information provided or given that she has an infection.”

Seal finger is an infection caused by a type of bacteria that can be resistant to the more commonly prescribed antibiotics.

The bacteria, called mycoplasma, can travel throughout the body — going from joint to joint causing arthritis, said Dr. Martin Haulena, the staff veterinarian with the Vancouver Aquarium.

Doxycline or tetracycline antibiotics are recommended for treatment.

“[Mycoplasmal infection] has led to amputations in the past, but you wouldn’t get amputated anymore,” Haulena told CNN. “It’s really treatable, you just need to know the right antibiotics. Unless doctors know to look for it, it would be very difficult to find.”

Haulena says the infection is not rare for people who handle sea lions and says it can be treated rapidly and easily. He added, “For a 6-year-old girl, yeah that’s rare and very scary.”

“Every sea lion bite does not lead to this infection and if you wash it and do proper wound management, you should be fine,” he said. “This [treatment] is precautionary and it’s the deeper bites that are usually the problem.”

A ‘hard’ lesson to learn

The girl’s father spoke to CBC on the condition that his first name is not released in order to protect his daughter’s identity.

Lau said the family wasn’t trying to take photos when the sea lion surged out of the water and grabbed the girl off the dock at Steveston Harbour in Richmond, British Columbia.

“There was somebody beside them that was trying to feed them,” he said. He said his daughter got too close to the sea lion to get a better look at the aquatic mammal.

“That’s a lesson she took and she has taken that lesson in a hard way,” he said.

“Only thing I care is ‘God, she is safe,'” Lau said. “I could have gone organizing a funeral by now rather than doing an interview.”

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