Vampire bat rabies bleeds Peru's Andean farmers dry
Vampire bats that swoop down after dark to bite cattle in the Peruvian Andes are helping trap farmers in poverty by infecting their animals with fatal rabies, researchers said.
Comprehensive vaccinations of livestock would stop animal deaths hitting farmers as rabies carried by the blood-drinking bats spreads into new areas, said Julio Benavides, a researcher at Scotland’s University of Glasgow.
“Livestock are considered like bank accounts. So losing even one animal keeps (farmers) under the poverty line,” said Benavides, who led a study into the effects of the disease. “For the individual farmer it’s a huge loss.”
Dog rabies has almost been eliminated in most countries, but vampire bat rabies is an emerging problem, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Some farmers in southern Peru are reportedly abandoning livestock farming due to deaths of their animals from the infectious disease, he said by phone from Santiago, Chile.
In a paper published on Thursday in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Benavides and other researchers charted livestock deaths from vampire bat rabies in farming communities in Peru’s Cusco, Apurimac and Ayacucho regions where it is prevalent.
About 70pc of farmers reported nightly attacks from vampire bats that left their cows bleeding, also raising the risk of other infections, weight loss and lower milk production.
Rabies cases were under-reported, the research showed. More than 700 cows died from rabies in 2014, costing farmers a total of about $170,000.