A Norwegian woman has died after contracting rabies from a stray puppy in the Philippines.
Birgitte Kallestad, 24, was on holiday with friends when they found the puppy on a street, Kallestad’s family said in a statement.
The puppy is thought to have infected her when it bit her after they took it back to their resort.
She fell ill soon after returning to Norway, and passed away on Monday at the hospital where she worked.
“Our dear Birgitte loved animals,” said her family. “Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her”.
Rabies is treatable, but left untreated it can cause a life-threatening infection of the brain and nervous system in humans.
The disease kills thousands of people every year, mostly in Asia and Africa, where it is prevalent.
Norway’s government does not make rabies vaccinations compulsory for citizens travelling to the Philippines, but Kallestad’s family has now called for a change in the law.
“If we can achieve this, the death of our sunbeam can save others,” the family said.
No-one from Norway’s public health body was immediately available for comment.
What is rabies?
- Initial symptoms can include anxiety, headaches and fever
- As the disease progresses, there may be hallucinations and respiratory failure
- Spasms of the muscles used for swallowing make it difficult for the patient to drink
- The incubation period between being infected and showing symptoms is between three and 12 weeks
- If you are bitten, scratched or licked by an animal you must wash the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water and seek medical advice without delay
- Once symptoms have developed, rabies is almost always fatal
- Before symptoms develop, rabies can be treated with a course of vaccine – this is “extremely effective” when given promptly after a bite – along with rabies immunoglobulin if required
- Every year, more than 15m people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination and this is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths
- But effective treatment for rabies is not readily available to those in need
- Pre-exposure immunisation is recommended for people in certain high-risk occupations and for travellers to rabies-affected, remote areas
Source: Public Health England/World Health Organization