Worker bitten by rat in pet shop told she 'couldn't go to hospital'
Alleged victim claims she contracted rare brain disease working in store
A YOUNG woman who claims she contracted a rare brain disease from parrots while working in a pet store told a court she was initially refused permission to attend hospital after being bitten by a rat.
Patricia Ingle (22), who is paralysed and wheelchair-bound, claims she suffered her permanently disabling injuries after contracting chlamydia psittacosis.
This is an airborne infection which can be transferred from birds to humans, which she claims she contracted while working in 2008 at the Petmania pet store at Ennis Road, Limerick.
She sued Petmania Limited, Jetland Retail Park, Ennis Road, Limerick; its parent company O'Keeffe's of Kilkenny Limited, Springhill, Kilkenny, and the HSE.
The claims are denied.
Ms Ingle claims she was an employee at the pet store from December 2007 and was given no health and safety training or warnings about the dangers of working with animals when she began working there. She also alleges her condition was not diagnosed in time at the Midwestern Regional Hospital.
Ms Ingle was formerly living at Clarina Avenue, Ballinacurra, Weston, Co Limerick, but is currently an in-patient at the Midwestern Regional Hospital, Dooraydoyle.
Ms Ingle gave evidence yesterday through a voice box.
She told Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill that, shortly after starting work with the pet shop, she had to deal with two white rats with fleas.
They were scratching so much they were bleeding and when she tried to treat them one of them panicked and bit her on the finger before jumping back into the cage, she said.
She had asked to go to the hospital but was told no. Her manager "just laughed" and had said the bite meant nothing, she said.
She phoned her father who came to the shop and spoke to the manager after which she was allowed go to the hospital where she was given a tetanus injection.
During her work she would clean and feed the animals, including hamsters, reptiles, fish and birds. Sawdust was used to deal with droppings from the animals and there were 12 big bird cages with about 20 birds in each, she said.
The birds would sometimes get scared and "fly everywhere" and make the cages very dusty with bird droppings, she said. That dust would go everywhere, onto her face and hands and would be inhaled, resulting in her coughing and, when she blew her noise, what emerged would be a different colour.
It is alleged that Ms Ingle contracted the disease during July-August 2008 during which time, it is alleged, a Cockatiel parrot was purchased by the store for €20.
It is alleged that type of bird was linked to the disease.
Petmania denies Ms Ingle contracted the alleged disease, and also denies she contracted any condition while working at the store.
The HSE has not disputed Ms Ingle contracted the alleged disease, but denies negligence and pleads her condition was appropriately managed while in hospital.
The hearing continues.