At least 12 Indigenous children in communities in Peru Amazon have died after being bitten by rabid vampire bats, the Peruvian Ministry of Health announced Wednesday.
“The victims were bitten by vampire bats, animals that feed on blood, in the communities of Yankuntich and Uncun in the jungle in the Loreto region, 1,100 km north of Lima,” Peruvian Ministry of Health official Hermann Silva told.
The deceased contracted rabies and died after being bitten by bats over the course of five months between September 2015 and February 2016. All of the victims were between eight and 15-years-old. The most recent case of death by rabid bat was reported on Wednesday.
Health authorities were not immediately informed of the threat of rabies in the Amazonian communities due to local beliefs about such sudden deaths.
“We have spoken with the (Indigenous authorities) and they reported that the community believed that the death of these children was due to witchcraft, which is why they did not inform us of the rabies outbreak in time,” Silva added.
Health authorities have dispatched emergency health teams to vaccinate the affected communities and control the rabies situation. The communities are very remote jungle villages that can only be reached by river or helicopter and lack prompt access to health service.
The Ministry of Health has advised the communities to avoid going into caves where bats are likely to take refuge.