Woman dies in Belfast hospital after contracting rabies


A Belfast woman who contracted rabies while abroad died in hospital tonight. Lisa McMurray had been in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Belfast`s Royal Victoria Hospital since the condition was diagnosed in December. Her death was confirmed in a statement from her family.

She had been in Africa a number of times over the last couple of years but began to feel unwell after being home for several months.

It is thought she contracted the virus, which is invariably fatal, after being bitten by a rabid dog.

A statement from her brothers - her parents are already dead - 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."

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 e-mails 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.

Ms McMurray, who was in her 30s, worked as the communications officer at the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau in the city centre until early last year before moving to the Cats Protection NI Adoption Centre at Dundonald on the city outskirts.

Last March she returned briefly to the South African sanctuary and, some months after returning home, started to feel unwell.

Rabies is extremely rare in Ireland and Britain - 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.

Ms McMurray is the first person in seventy years to suffer from Rabies in Northern Ireland.