Pet shop worker 'caught meningitis from parrots'
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
A YOUNG woman who realised her dream of working with animals has been left brain-damaged and paralysed as a result of contracting a rare illness.
In one of the biggest personal injury cases to come before the courts, lawyers for the woman will seek to prove that the pet shop where she worked and the hospital where she was treated were negligent and failed in their duty of care to her.
Her action against her former employer. which operates a pet store in the midwest, and the Health Service Executive (HSE) begins in the High Court in Dublin tomorrow.
Up to 30 expert witnesses are due to give evidence in the case.
Her claim is denied by both defendants and a full defence has been lodged.
She began working at the pet store in late 2007, but became unwell in July, 2008, with a sore throat and later headaches. She twice attended her GP as the severity of the headaches intensified.
It is claimed that on August 20 she began to vomit and was unable to move. She was taken by ambulance to hospital, where she was allegedly advised at the A and E department to stay in bed and take it easy.
She was allowed return home that day.
While the vomiting eased over the following days, the headaches, fever and dizziness continued. She again saw her GP who expressed the view that she had a bacterial infection.
But she became very unwell on September 1 and was again referred to the hospital. She was admitted because of the severity of the headaches and the vomiting. A lumbar puncture was performed and she was referred for a non-urgent CT scan.
The next day her responses were extremely slow and she was not responding to questions. That evening she suffered a sudden deterioration in her condition and then respiratory arrest.
She was transferred by ambulance to another hospital, but had suffered irreversible brain damage. Her limbs are now paralysed, she is doubly incontinent, and breathes with a ventilator.
It is claimed that she contracted lymphocytic chorio meningitis as a result of inhaling the faeces of parrots suffering from chlamydia psittacosis--an airborne infection which can be transmitted from birds to humans.
In its defence the pet store does not accept that the plaintiff was exposed to bacterial agents in the workplace. The pet store also denies that she contracted her illness arising from her proximity to sick creatures in the workplace.
In addition, her former employer claims that her personal injuries were due to her failing to exercise reasonable care or that she failed to carry out her duties in the manner in which she was trained.
The HSE, in its defence, does not accept that she contracted a lymphocytic chorio meningitis virus infection. The HSE insists that her symptoms were evaluated properly and that an upper respiratory tract infection or tonsillitis was a reasonable diagnosis to have made.
In addition, the HSE claims the clinical signs were negative for meningitis and that, from a microbiology/virology perspective, the plaintiff's management complied with good and approved practice.