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Rabid Vampire Bats Infect Hundreds In Peru

August 16, 2010

Four children died and hundreds of people are being treated for rabies after being attacked by vampire bats in Peru, according to various media reports published late last week.

The attacks were confirmed by Health Ministry official Jose Bustamente.

“At this moment, we’re facing an outbreak of wild rabies, produced by the bite of infected bats, in the Urakusa community, especially among the Awajun peoples,” Bustamante told RTV on Saturday.

“We have identified 508 people bitten who have begun anti-rabies vaccines. Ninety-seven percent have completed their schemes. This outbreak caused four children who didn’t respond quickly” to die, the Health Ministry official added.

Urakusa is located in northeastern Peru.

Reuters first reported about the vampire bat attacks on Thursday. By that time, the news agency had already noted that officials from the Health Ministry had sent vaccines and other medical supplies to the tribe, though some members initially refused treatment.

“Vampire bats usually feed on wildlife or livestock, but are sometimes known to turn to humans for food, particularly in areas where their rainforest habitat has been destroyed,” BBC News reported in an article dated August 13. “Some local people have suggested this latest outbreak of attacks may be linked to the unusually low temperatures the Peruvian Amazon in recent years.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies is a form of viral disease typically transmitted from one mammal to another through a bite. Rabies infects the central nervous system, and early symptoms of infection include fever, headache, and weakness.

As the disease progresses, additional symptoms appear, including insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, an increase in saliva production, trouble swallowing, and fear of water. If left untreated, rabies infection is fatal. In the U.S., the primary sources of infection are from raccoon, skunk, bat, or fox bites, according to the CDC.

Image Caption: Desmodus rotundus, Picture taken at Sangayan Island, Paracas National Reserve, Departamento Ica, Peru, in March 2005. Credit: Wikipedia

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