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Biological Health Hazard – Rabies Outbreak (Public Warning) | Vampire Bat (New species), Human exposure (fatal): Brazil


Published Date: 2017-06-01 05:41:04
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Rabies – Americas (23): Brazil, vampire bat, human exposure, fatal
Archive Number: 20170601.5075386

Date: Tue 30 May 2017
Source: The Sun [edited]

A man has died, and more than 40 people are being treated for possible rabies exposure in north east Brazil, following an alarming spate of attacks by vampire bats. The death is the 1st recorded case of human rabies transmitted by a bat in Brazil since 2004. The outbreak is the largest wave of attacks ever registered in the region and is being attributed to a disturbing rise in the bat population nesting close to humans.

On Saturday [27 May 2017], disease control teams from Bahia state health authority (SESAB) were out in force culling vampire bats by catching and applying a venom paste to their bodies, in a bid to control the rising numbers.

The 46 year old man who died was milking a cow on a farm in Paramirim when he accidentally stepped on a rabies-carrying bat that bit his foot. Three weeks later, after being hospitalised for 7 days suffering from headaches, nausea, severe anxiety, and shortness of breath, he remembered the incident. He tested positive for rabies, but it was too late for doctors to administer the vaccine, and he passed away shortly afterwards in March this year [2017].

Within days of the fatality, residents living in the capital city, Salvador, some 400 miles from Paramirim, reported a flurry of attacks by the blood-thirsty creatures that appear to have added human blood to their menu.

One of the victims, who lives in the historic centre of the city, said: “I was bitten 3 times, twice on my toes and once on my heel, in 2 successive nights around the middle of May [2017]. I didn’t realise until the 2nd time that I had been attacked by a bat. At first, I thought I had somehow cut my toe during the night. I normally sleep with the windows and doors open, and the bats flew in. I never felt any pain at all on both the nights I was bitten. But in my dreams, I did feel as if something had hooked itself onto my toe. When I woke up in the morning, I found the bed was wet. It had been raining overnight, and I thought water had dripped in. But it was my blood. It was such a shock.” His mother, aged 54, said: “I was bitten on my toe too while I slept. I didn’t feel anything. My husband woke me up and showed me the dirty sheet. We thought I had cut myself without knowing. But as soon as my son told me the same thing had happened to him, we realised it had to be a bat because of the fang-like puncture marks in our toes.”

According to veterinarian Aroldo Carneiro, it’s common for people to confuse bat bites with a simple cut. Carneiro, who heads the rabies surveillance unit, explained: “The bite does not cause intense pain, because in bat saliva there are analgesic and anticoagulant substances, the latter prevents the quick healing of the wound.”

To combat the wave of attacks, a task force of disease control agents have been visiting homes in the terrorised neighbourhoods, advising residents on how to protect themselves at night. The teams have been vaccinating cats and dogs. Last year [2016], 91 000 dogs and 32 000 cats were immunised, and agents have been emphasizing to residents that rabies is almost always fatal unless victims receive early preventative treatment.

communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[Cases of human rabies, including deaths, are frequently reported in the Amazon. There, several strains of the rabies virus circulate in the vampire bat, _Desmodus rotundus_. Recently, a new vampire bat species was reported to be another potential rabies vector, the hairy-legged vampire bat, _Diphylla ecaudata_. – Mod.PMB

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also

Rabies (05): Americas (Brazil) vampire bat, human exp 20170116.4768775
Rabies – Americas (03): Peru (CS) bat, human susp 20170109.4752050


Rabies – Americas (41): Belize, bovine, increase, OIE 20161115.4629279


Rabies, bovine – Peru (03): (HU) susp 20120607.1158728
Rabies – Peru (02): (CS), vampire bat, human 20120525.1144114
Rabies – Peru: (CS), vampire bat, human 20120512.1131075


Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (08): (UC) bovine, human 20111102.3262
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (07): canine 20110924.2901
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (06): (AY) human, animal 20110711.2096
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (05) (AM) 20110312.0799
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (04): (AM) 20110225.0621
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (03): (AM) 20110221.0570
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (02): (AM) corr. 20110219.0551
Rabies, vampire bat – Peru (02): (AM) 20110219.0550
Rabies, vampire bat, human – Peru (AM) 20110218.0534

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

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