Woman dies from rabies after rescuing stray puppy

Birgitte Kallestad, 24, was vacationing in Philippines when she contracted virus

By Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group
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A woman who was vacationing in the Philippines died after contracting rabies from a stray puppy.

Birgitte Kallestad, 24, from Norway, was with her friends when she found a puppy on the street and took it back to their resort, where it bit her, according to BBC. Officials believe she became infected with rabies due to the bite.

Kallestad’s family told BBC the pup had given her some small scrapes that she sterilized, but she did not seek any further treatment.

Upon returning to Norway, Kallestad got very sick. She died on May 6 at a hospital where she worked.

Officials say Kallestad’s rabies-related death is the first in Norway in more than 200 years.

"We are very sympathetic with the family," Sir Feruglio, a senior medical officer at Norway's Institute of Public Health, told BBC in an interview.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that rabid dogs are the cause of more than 90% of human exposure to rabies, and most deaths from the disease occur within countries that have “inadequate public health resources and limited access to preventative treatment.”

Because of that, the center says when traveling it is prudent to avoid approaching domestic or wild animals.

"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,” Feruglio said.

And though rabies is treatable and not considered a medical emergency, it can cause life-threatening infection of the brain and nervous system in humans and should be treated with urgency.

The CDC says you can only get the virus by being in contact with saliva or bodily secretions and tissues.

Symptoms include:

  • Weakness, discomfort, fever or headache.
  • Discomfort, prickling or itching at site of bite.
  • Within days, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation and, with continual progression, delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations and insomnia.

The CDC says once the patient begins to see clinical signs of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal.

If you think you’ve been infected, you should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and see your doctor.

Graham Media Group 2019