FORDE, Norway - A Norwegian woman who rescued a puppy while on vacation in the Philippines died from rabies, according to her family.
Birgitte Kallestad, 24, was traveling with friends in February when she noticed a "little helpless puppy" on the side of the road, her family said in a statement to media.
She lifted the puppy into a basket and took it home, where she washed and groomed it. The puppy bit her and her friends as they were playing with it.
Kallestad, a health worker in Norway, sterilized her "little puppy bites," the family said. At the time, she and her friends did not see the need for medical attention.
She returned to Norway, where she lived in the Forde Municipality, but did not get sick immediately. At first when she fell ill, doctors struggled to find out what was wrong. After several trips to the emergency room and eventual admission to the hospital, a doctor thought her symptoms looked like rabies, the family said.
"Our dear Birgitte loved animals," the family said. "Our fear is that this will happen to others who have a warm heart like her."
The group that Kallestad was traveling with was not vaccinated against rabies, according to the family. The disease is not on the list of required vaccines required for the Philippines, unless a traveler goes to an area with poor hygienic and sanitary conditions, according to requirements of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Now, the family is calling for the rabies vaccine to be included in the program for places that could have the disease, and for the public to become aware of its dangers.
"If we manage to achieve this, the death of our sunbeam can save others," the family said.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.