Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Lisa’s rabies battle: dog scratch theory is probed

A joy to work with: Lisa McMurray was a familiar face at the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau.

A Belfast woman who contracted the potentially deadly rabies virus remained in a critical condition in hospital last night.

As Lisa McMurray continues to battle for her life in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, doctors are probing a theory that she may have become infected whilst separating two fighting dogs.

Our sister paper The Sunday Life reported that friends of Lisa’s informed doctors treating her that she sent emails in December 2006 detailing how she was scratched separating the dogs at an animal sanctuary in South Africa.

She told friends one of the dogs, which was subsequently put down by the sanctuary owner, was foaming at the mouth.

She also wrote of her shock when she discovered the dog’s severed head in a fridge in the animal centre. Lisa, an ardent animal lover and a member of the Cats Protection League who is believed to be in 30s, began feeling unwell a few months after she returned home.

She was initially treated in the Ulster Hospital but was transferred to the Royal. A spokeswoman for the Royal last night said: “Lisa remains in a critically ill condition.”

A friend of Lisa’s told the Sunday Life: “Lisa was not a big fan of Christmas because her parents were no longer here and that’s why she went away. She loved animals and just wanted to work with them.

“But she cut short her visit after telling us that she wasn’t happy finding a dog’s head in a fridge.

“It may have been only there so that tests could be carried out later but it still caused her distress.”

The friend also revealed that Lisa mentioned in email correspondence that she had been scratched by a dog. As news of Lisa’s plight emerged last week, a spokesman for the Eastern Board confirmed an investigation had been launched.

He said: “The patient involved had previously been overseas in an area associated with rabies in animals and may have been bitten there. Any risk to the wider community is negligible.

“There is no documented case of human to human transmission of rabies.”

Lisa worked as a communications director for the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau until earlier this year before working with the Cats Protection Northern Ireland Adoption Centre in Dundonald.

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