Tourist, 24, Dies From Rabies After Touching Stray Dog in the Philippines

By Zachary Stieber

A 24-year-old woman who traveled to the Philippines on vacation died after contracting rabies from a stray dog, her family said.

Birgitte Kallestad of Norway went with her friends to the country in February. While riding mopeds one day, they found a puppy on the side of the road.

Kallestad picked up the puppy, placed it in the basket on her moped, and took it back to the resort at which they were staying, her family said in a statement obtained by the Daily Mail.

She washed and groomed the dog. She and her friends then played with it in a garden at the resort.

Everyone sustained minor bites and scratches from the dog while interacting with it, the woman’s family said. Kallestad, a health worker, cleaned her wounds herself.

She began feeling symptoms after returning to Norway but doctors struggled to diagnose the disease as she didn’t think of her interactions with the dog.

A doctor eventually made the correct diagnosis but it was too late.

Her family said that rabies should be added to the list of vaccines required to travel to the Philippines.

Filipino children play at a broken fishing boat in Manila Bay in the Philippines in a file photo. (Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

“Our dear Birgitte loved animals. 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,” the family stated.

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

According to the World Health Organization, rabies causes over 59,000 deaths every year in over 100 countries. Over 95 percent of rabies cases occur in Africa and Asia.

The disease is transmitted to people from an array of animals.

Food and Drug Administration officials check on vaccines for rabbies
Food and Drug Administration officials check on vaccines for rabies at the Disease Control and Prevention Center in Huaibei in China’s eastern Anhui province on July 24, 2018. (AFP/Getty Images)
A stray dog in a file photo. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies “is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.”

“The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort,” it added.

“As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.”

People who contract rabies should seek immediate medical attention.