OSLO-A Norwegian woman has died after contracting rabies from a stray puppy in the Philippines.

Birgitte Kallestad, 24, was on holiday with friends when they found the puppy on a street, her family said in a statement. The puppy is thought to have infected her when it bit her after they took it back to their resort.

She fell ill soon after returning to Norway, and died on Monday at the hospital where she worked. It is the first rabies-related death in Norway for more than 200 years.

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

Rabies is treatable but left untreated, it can cause a life-threatening infection of the brain and nervous system in humans. The disease kills thousands of people every year, mostly in Asia and Africa, where it is prevalent.

Norway’s government does not make rabies vaccinations compulsory for citizens travelling to the Philippines, but Ms Kallestad’s family has now called for a change in the law.

“If we can achieve this, the death of our sunbeam can save others,” the family said. No-one from Norway’s public health body was immediately available for comment.