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Lancet. 1992 Feb 15;339(8790):408-11.

Outbreak of human rabies in the Peruvian jungle.

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Oficina General de Epidemiologia, Programa de Entrenamiento en Epidemiologia de Campo, Ministerio de Salud, Lima, Peru.


Transmission of rabies to man by vampire bats has been known for 60 years but there have been few reports of the features of rabies transmitted in this way. These aspects of the disease were investigated during an outbreak in Peru in early 1990. Between Jan 1 and April 30, 1990, 29 (5%) of 636 residents of the two rural communities in the Amazon Jungle in Peru acquired an illness characterised by hydrophobia, fever, and headache and died shortly thereafter. A census in one of the two towns revealed that the proportion affected was significantly higher for 5-14 year olds (17%) than for other age-groups (p less than 10(-5). Interviews conducted with 23 of the patients or their families revealed that 22 (96%) had a history of bat bite, compared with 66 (22%) of 301 community members who remained healthy (p less than 10(-6). A rabies virus strain identical to those isolated from vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) was isolated from the brain of the only person on whom necropsy could be done. Because of the extreme isolation of this and other communities affected by bat-transmitted rabies, preventive measures should be directed at decreasing the risk of nocturnal exposure to bats by bat proofing dwellings or use of mosquito nets and at prompt wound care. Rabies pre-exposure or postexposure vaccination is clearly indicated, but may not be feasible in these isolated populations.

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