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Haematophagous bats in Brazil, their role in rabies transmission, impact on public health, livestock industry and alternatives to an indiscriminate reduction of bat population.

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  • 1CIRAD, French Embassy, PO Box 5554, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Haematophagous bats exist only in Latin America, from México to the Northern provinces of Argentina. They are represented by three species, Desmodus rotundus, Diphylla ecaudata and Diaemus youngii. While two species feed only on blood of wild birds, one species, D. rotundus, causes losses feeding on livestock and could be a vector for rabies virus. The cases in which humans were bitten by the bat have increased in Brazil. Bats became a target of control activities by farming communities and local governments. Indiscriminate actions such as poisoning bats and destroying their roosts put the lives of other bat species, which are extremely important for the ecologic balance, at risk. The vaccination of exposed livestock against rabies, which would protect the endangered livestock, is not regularly carried out. The importance and current status of D. rotundus in the transmission of rabies in Brazil, the Public Health aspects, the importance for the livestock industry are shown and the consequences of reducing bat population are discussed. Alternatives to an indiscriminate bat-population reduction in the control of rabies are proposed.

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