Rescued Puppy ‘Scrapes’ Kill Woman Months After Philippines Trip

Who would have known that very small bites and scratches from a puppy could kill a person? That is the case of a Norwegian woman who died from rabies after playing with a rescued dog. 

Birgitte Kallestad, a 24-year-old health worker back from Norway, contracted the rabies during a vacation in the Philippines in February. While on her way back to a resort with her friends, Kallestad saw a stray puppy on the side of the road and took it with her to their room, Fox News first reported

After washing and grooming the puppy, she and her friends then played with it. Kallestad had minor bites and scratches from the dog, according to a statement from her family. 

Considering the cuts were so small, she did not seek further medical attention after cleaning and sterilizing some scratches. However, as Kallestad returned to Norway she started to feel ill and was brought to the hospital several times. 

Her family said doctors initially found it difficult to determine what was wrong with her. On May 4, hospital officials confirmed she had rabies. Kallestad died two days after the report.

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

Call For Compulsory Rabies Vaccines 

Kallestad and her friends did not get any vaccine against rabies before they went to the Philippines. Rabies is treatable but if left untreated can lead to life-threatening conditions, which affect the brain and nervous system.

The case of Kallestad is the first death associated to rabies in Norway in more than 200 years, the BBC noted. Following the incident, her family called on officials to make rabies vaccines compulsory for all citizens traveling abroad. 

“If we can achieve this, the death of our sunbeam can save others,” they said.

The disease currently is endemic in more than 120 countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies infection may cause flu-like to severe symptoms, such as general weakness, fever, headache, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations and insomnia.

Rabies vaccine is only effective before symptoms appear. Experts warned that once a person starts to show symptoms, any treatment becomes ineffective, thus making the infection fatal.