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Worker suing pet shop after bird disease left her disabled

A young woman is now severely disabled after contracting a rare brain disease "most probably" from inhaling faeces dust from parrots or budgies at a pet store where she worked, it has been claimed before the High Court.

Patricia Ingle (22), who is paralysed and wheelchair-bound, claims she suffered her permanently 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.

Ms Ingle, formerly of Clarina Avenue, Ballinacurra, Weston, Co Limerick, but currently an in-patient at the Midwestern Regional Hospital, Dooraydoyle, Limerick, has sued Petmania Limited, Jetland Retail Park, Ennis Road, Limerick; its parent company O'Keeffe's of Kilkenny Limited, Springhill, Kilkenny, and the HSE.

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.

It is alleged Ms Ingle contracted the disease during July/August 2008 during which time, it is alleged, a cockatiel was purchased by the store for €20. It is alleged that class of bird was implicated in the disease.

The defendants have denied the claims against them.

The hearing is expected to last a number of weeks.