A little girl who was pulled underwater by a sea lion in Richmond, British Columbia may have gotten more than just trauma from the harrowing experience. There’s a chance she’s been infected with a painful disease known as ‘seal finger’.
ABC reports that seal finger is caused by tiny mycoplasma phocacerebrale bacteria found in the mouths of seals, sea lions, and other sea mammals.
Seal finger is so named because fingers are the most commonly affected, though the infection can occur in other body parts.
Infections typically occur through bites, or when a preexisting wound becomes exposed to the animal’s blood or saliva. The affected area becomes swollen and tender with cellulitis, and can progress to joint damage.
Mycoplasma do not have cell walls, which makes them resistant to certain antibiotics such as penicillin. Fortunately, tetracycline has been known to successfully treat the condition.
Many sealers have lost fingers or whole hands to the disease, back when treatment was not yet available.
The girl in Canada received a superficial wound from her ordeal with the sea lion, and is now receiving treatment for seal finger as a precautionary measure.