Woman dies from rabies after rescuing puppy on vacation

File image of rabies test (Photo: Getty Images)

A Norwegian woman has died from rabies after rescuing a puppy she found while on vacation.

24-year-old Birgitte Kallestad was vacationing in the Philippines when she found the dog, and couldn’t resist picking it up off the side of the road. She brought the puppy back to her resort, where she washed and played with it. 

According to BBC.com, Kallestad’s family said she received “small scrapes” by the puppy as she played with it, but sought no more medical attention.

It was only after Kallestad had returned to her home country that she began to fall ill. According to her family, doctors couldn’t initially determine what was the cause of her illness, despite several trips to the emergency room. She was admitted to a hospital on April 28, when physicians determined she had rabies after being bitten by the dog while on vacation, reports Verdens Gang, a Norwegian publication, according to the Washington Post.

“The patient was admitted to our intensive care unit, and died peacefully with the closest family around her,” Trine Hunskar Vingsnes, director of health at Helse Forde hospital, told VG.

“Our dear Birgitte loved animals. Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her,” the Kallestad family said in a statement. They suggested that a rabies vaccine should be added to a list of inoculations for people traveling to the Philippines.

“It’s really important to stress that even if you’ve been vaccinated before you travel, if you do have contact [with a potentially infected animal] you need to go to a local health clinic for a second vaccination,”  Siri Feruglio, Senior Medical Officer at the Norway’s Institute of Public Health, told the BBC. “This is a disease that’s endemic in 150 countries and it’s a huge health problem.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rabies virus is transmitted in the saliva of rabid animals. It generally enters the body via virus-laden saliva from a rabid animal into a wound, like a scratch, or through bite wounds that provide direct exposure of mucosal surfaces to saliva from an infected animal. The virus cannot infiltrate intact skin. 95% of cases are reported in Asia and Africa.

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