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Animal carer dies from rabies 'after being scratched by dog in Africa two years ago'

Posted on 10:07 PM by Sameer Shah

A woman who died from rabies last night may have contracted the disease in Africa more than two years ago.

Lisa McMurray had been in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital since the condition was diagnosed last month.

Ms McMurray, who worked for the Cats Protection Adoption Centre in Belfast, was a regular visitor to Africa and had visited the continent a number of times over the plast couple of years.

She only began to feel unwell after being home for several months.

It is believed she may have been infected as far back as December 2006 wile working in an animal sanctuary in South Africa - she sent home emails at the time detailing how she had been scratched while separating two dogs.

One of the animals had to be put down after it started foaming at the mouth.

Another suggestion is that Ms McMurray was bitten by a monkey at an animal sanctuary while on a more recent holiday.

Ms McMurray, who is in her 30s, had devoted her life to looking after animals and had recently quit her high profile job at the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau to work full time with unwanted cats.



She had said taking up the post as manager with the Cats Protection Adoption Centre just outside Newtownards in County Down was the fulfilment of a lifelong goal in devoting as much of her time as possible to animals.

Her death was confirmed in a statement from her brothers - her parents have passed away.

The family statement said: 'We are devastated by the loss of our sister Lisa. We are extremely proud not only of all she achieved in life but also of the bravery with which she fought her illness.

'Her courage was inspiring and typical of the passionate and determined way in which she led her life. Her loss will leave a huge hole in all our lives and her family and friends will miss her terribly.'

They added: 'We would like to take this opportunity to thank the medical staff who have treated Lisa throughout her illness. Their skill and dedication has been a great source of comfort to us and they did everything possible to care for her.

'The sensitive way in which they cared not only for Lisa but for her family and friends has been exceptional and we are very grateful.

'Our thanks go to all those whose thoughts and prayers have helped to sustain us over the past weeks.'

Rabies is extremely rare in the United Kingdom - there have been only 23 cases since 1946, the last in 2005, and all infections were acquired abroad.

The last case of human rabies involving a dog bite suffered in the UK was more than a century ago in 1902.

The Eastern Health and Social Services Board in Belfast led a multi-agency investigation into her case and insisted the risk to the wider community was negligible - there is no documented case of human-to-human transmission of rabies anywhere in the world.

It said when she was diagnosed that Ms McMurray posed no threat to other patients in the hospital and that 'all necessary steps on infection control were in place for the protection of staff'.

Rabies is a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland and there have been no notifications of rabies in humans there since 1938.

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