Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Dracula on the Rampage in Peru
Travelers heading to Peru are being advised take precaution against the potentially fatal bites of rabies-carrying vampire bats.
Recent increases in the number of rabies-related deaths in the Amazon have been attributed to the rising number of vampire bats in the region. The rise is thought to be a result of deforestation. As the habitats of more sensitive species are lost, the bats experience of loss of predators, leading to imbalances in the food chain. An increase in cattle farming is also thought to have created more food for the bats, further boosting their populations.
Heath authorities are taking action by trying to vaccinate the communities living in bat-prone areas, but face a tough challenge. Many indigenous people are used to biting bats and are wary of modern medicene, so have been reluctant to accept modern vaccinations, preferring instead to rely on traditional remedies.
Five people died in recent outbreaks, with young children most vulnerable. The disease can lie dormant for up to six months, but once it takes hold, fever, hallucinations and, ultimately, death, are inevitable.
Hoping to learn more, and prevent future outbreaks, researchers have been carrying out research in Lima, by raiding Amazonian bat colonies and using DNA sequencing to monitor the evolution of the disease.
British travelers at risk are able to receive pre-exposure vaccinations in the UK. Go to fitfortravel.nhs.uk for more info.
Listen to the full report on BBC World Service
Watch a video clip of bats on location at globalpost.com
Image taken from BBC World Service
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This blog was also posted on Responsible Travel News