24-Year-Old Norwegian Woman Dies of Rabies After Rescuing Dog on Vacation in the Philippines

A Norwegian woman died on Monday after contracting rabies during a vacation to the Philippines in February.

On her trip, Birgitte Kallestad rescued a puppy she found on the side of the road and took it back to the resort where she was staying at the time, according to the Washington Post. There, the dog started to bite her, although she did not think the wounds were serious.

A health worker, Kallestad simply washed the cuts without seeking additional medical treatment, her family shared in a statement given to Norway’s state-owned broadcaster NRK, according to USA Today.

Although she did not immediately fall ill when she returned home, Kallestad was admitted to the hospital on April 28, the family shared in the statement.

Prior to her hospitalization, Kallestad — who was 24 when she died — had made several trips to the emergency room, where doctors were unable to identify her illness.

Doctors first began to suspect Kallestad was suffering from rabies last Thursday, after being informed that during her time abroad she had been bitten by a dog, reported local media outlet Verdens Gang, according to the Washington Post.

This is the first rabies-related death reported in Norway in over 200 years, according to the BBC.

“Our dear Birgitte loved animals,” her family said in the statement, according to the Washington Post. “Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her.”

Although Rabies vaccines are not required under Norwegian law, the country’s Institute of Public Health recommends them for those traveling to several countries where travelers have a high-risk of contracting rabies, including the Philippines, the BBC reported.

Over 59,000 people die of rabies every year, according to the World Health Organization.

The rabies virus spreads from animal bites, typically from coyotes, raccoons, bats, foxes and other animals carrying the disease. Rabies infects the nervous system quickly with symptoms that can include a fever, muscle spasms, headaches, mental confusion and more, and is almost always fatal, as there’s no effective treatment. The best method to avoid contracting rabies is for people to get vaccinated if they believe they’ve been infected, and to vaccinate animals.

Symptoms of rabies can develop as early as nine days after exposure or as late as seven years. The disease travels from the site of the bite to the brain through the nerves, according to the CDC.

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