Norwegian traveler Birgitte Kallestad has died after unknowingly contracting rabies from a stray puppy she rescued while on vacation in the Philippines.
Kallestad, 24, passed away in Norway on Monday, May 6.
A Fatal Rescue
BBC reports that Kallestad and her friends found the puppy on the side of a road during their trip to the Philippines in February 2019. The group took the puppy back to their resort, where she washed it and played with it.
During their playtime, the puppy reportedly bit Kallestad a few times, which resulted in small scrapes. While her family said that she washed and sterilized the scratches, she didn't seek out medical attention afterward.
Unfortunately, cleaning the small nicks wasn't enough to prevent her from getting infected with rabies.
Kallestad fell ill upon returning home to Norway, proceeding to visit the hospital's emergency room a number of times. However, since a significant amount of time has already passed since her trip to the Philippines, doctors struggled to diagnose her and were ultimately unable to diagnose her illness in time.
Just a few days after she was diagnosed, Kallestad died in the hospital where she was confined.
"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."
According to Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, this is the first rabies-related death in Norway in about 200 years.
More About Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that kills tens of thousands of deaths every year, 95 percent of which are located in Asia and Africa, according to the World Health Organization. It's reportedly almost always fatal at the onset of clinical symptoms.
The disease is known to be preventable by vaccinating dogs, who are the source of 99 percent of all rabies transmissions to humans. Human vaccination is also possible, especially to individuals who live or are traveling to high-risk areas, which include the Philippines.
"We are very sympathetic with the [Kallestad] family," Sir Feruglio, a senior medical officer at the Norway's Institute of Public Health, told BBC. "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."
CDC says that rabies incidents in humans in the United States are rare, especially in the wake of prevention methods.