May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Norwegian Tourist Dies of Rabies After Bitten By a Puppy She Saved

May 15, 2019 06:21 PM EDT

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A Norwegian tourist has died of rabies after she was bitten by a stray puppy that she rescued from the street in the Philippines. Birgitte Kallestad, 24, from Hordaland on the Norwegian west coast, died on Monday night, two months after coming into contact with the stray dog while traveling with her friends in February.

According to a statement released by Birgitte's family, the group was out riding mopeds when they came across a stray puppy on the side of the road, Birgitte then carried it into her basket and immediately took it back to the resort where they were staying. After washing and grooming the puppy, she and her friends played with it in the resort's garden.

Birgitte's family said that everyone in the group sustained minor scratches and bites from the puppy during this time and that it is normal for dog owners to sustain them. Birgitte, who was a health worker, patched up and sterilized the wounds herself.

The cuts were very small that no one saw the need for medical supervision, the family said. It was only after Birgitte had returned home to Norway that she began to feel unwell. Symptoms of rabies include headaches and fever, but once it worsens, patients can suffer muscle spasms, hallucinations and eventually, respiratory failure.

The doctors in Norway struggled to diagnose the patient, and no one, not even Birgitte herself, connected her condition to the dog bite. This is because it has been over 200 years since rabies was last detected in Norway. She was in and out of the hospital several times and as her condition worsened, she was admitted full time.

Finally, a doctor in the hospital in Forde suspected that her symptoms were linked to rabies. They sent samples to the Public Health Authority in Sweden who then confirmed the suspicions. Birgitte and her group of friends were not inoculated against the disease, because rabies is not on the list of vaccines required before traveling to the Philippines unless you are going to areas with poor hygiene and sanitation.

Birgitte's family and friends are now campaigning for rabies to be included on the program for the Philippines and other countries where it is possible to contract it from street animals.

'Our dear Birgitte loved animals,' a family spokesperson said.

'Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her. We want this vaccine to be included in the program for places where it can be rabies, and that people become aware of the dangers.'

'If we manage to achieve this, the death of our sunbeam can save others.'

Birgitte died on Monday night, eight days after being admitted to the hospital where she worked.

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