Pet shop worker fights for damages
Parrots 'probably' caused paralysis
A YOUNG woman is seeking damages after "most probably" contracting a rare brain disease from inhaling faeces dust from parrots or budgies at a pet store where she worked.
Patricia Ingle (22), who is paralysed and wheelchair-bound, has claimed in the High Court that she suffered her disabling injuries after contracting chlamydia psittacosis -- an airborne infection which can be transferred from birds to humans -- while working at the Petmania pet store at Ennis Road, Limerick, in 2008.
Ms Ingle, formerly of Weston, Co Limerick but currently an in-patient at the Midwestern Regional Hospital, Limerick, has sued Petmania Limited, of Jetland Retail Park, Ennis Road, Limerick; its parent company, O'Keeffe's of Kilkenny Limited, Kilkenny; and the HSE.
Ms Ingle started working at the pet store in December 2007 and claims she was given no health and safety training or warnings about the dangers of working with animals. She also alleges her condition was not diagnosed in time at the Midwestern Regional Hospital.
Opening her action yesterday, her counsel Dermot Gleeson said chlamydia psittacosis was a rare disease which can be passed from parrots or budgies to humans through inhalation of dried faeces dust from the feathers or respiratory secretions of the birds.
It is alleged Ms Ingle contracted the disease during July/August 2008 during which time a Cockatiel parrot was purchased by the store for €20. It is claimed that class of bird was implicated in the disease.
Mr Gleeson said the store did not provide gloves or masks for staff and a health and safety manual, which the company claimed it issued to staff, was "remarkable" in making no reference at all to the risks of working with animals. Ms Ingle has no recollection of ever receiving a manual.
Mr Gleeson also said animals in the store were neither screened nor treated. And in August 2008, just weeks before Ms Ingle became ill, an internal inspection noted the bird cages were "very dirty" and the store scored six out of 12 for hygiene, the court heard.
On August 20, Ms Ingle suffered violent headaches and vomiting. She went to her GP and was sent to the Midwestern Regional Hospital where she was treated and sent home.
There was a slight improvement but, after a very bad night on August 31, she went to her GP on September 1 and was sent to the hospital. By September 3, she was voiceless and had suffered irreversible brain damage, blurred vision, could not move and had difficulty swallowing, counsel said.
She has remained in that condition since, can only breathe adequately through a ventilator and is tube-fed.
Mr Gleeson said Ms Ingle had remained in the Mid Western Regional Hospital for 58 hours before being transferred to hospital in Cork.
At that stage she had suffered brain damage. There was a failure to recognise what was going on in those 58 hours and if there had been proper recognition of her symptoms, some, if not all, of her difficulties could have been prevented, he said.
The defendants have denied the claims against them. Petmania denies Ms Ingle contracted the alleged disease and that any condition was contracted while working at the store.
The HSE has not disputed Ms Ingle contracted the alleged disease but denies negligence.
The hearing is expected to last a number of weeks.