Norwegian tourist Birgitte Kallestad was such an animal lover, she didn’t think twice about stopping for a stray puppy she spotted on the side of the road while on vacation with friends in the Philippines in February.
Kallestad, 24, picked up the puppy and took it with her back to the resort where she was staying, washed it and played with it, according to the BBC, never thinking she was in any danger. The puppy did bite her several times, news reports indicate, but she didn’t think much about that either, after all, it was just a baby.
A health worker herself, she washed the cuts out and didn’t seek further treatment, according to a family statement given to Norway’s state-owned broadcaster NRK, USA Today reported.
When Kallestad returned home to Norway, she actually felt fine for a while. It wasn’t until April 28 that she was first admitted to a hospital, her family said, but by then the illness was so far advanced that doctors had a hard time diagnosing it. When they did, it was too late. Kellestad died from rabies last Monday.
Her family was heartbroken.
“Our dear Birgitte loved animals,” according to the family’s statement.
“Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her.”
Kallestad’s death was the first from rabies in Norway in more than 200 years, the BBC reported.
Rabies is a preventable viral infection that is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with most cases occurring in wild animals.
The virus infects the central nervous system, before migrating to the brain and causing death.
The early symptoms of the disease are similar to illnesses like the cold and flu; fever, headache and general weakness. As rabies progresses, though, other symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, and confusion among others occur.
If rabies is caught early, there is a vaccine for the disease, but a victim must receive it before symptoms appear for it to work. Once rabies symptoms develop, there is no treatment, and the disease is almost always fatal, according to the CDC.
The health agency said rabies is still commonly found in more than 120 countries, mainly where there is poor public health resources and a lack of preventive care.
An American woman died from rabies in Virginia in January after she was bitten by a puppy in India, the CDC reported.
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