Peru launches immunizations campaign against rabies in jungle communities

Peru’s Health Ministry announced Wednesday ongoing immunizations against a possible outbreak of rabies in indigenous communities in the country’s north-eastern Amazonas department after the deaths of seven children bitten by bats.

José Luis Bustamante, of the ministry’s Zoonosis Health Strategy, told state news agency Andina that health care officers have taken 4,200 doses of anti-rabies vaccines to the Kigkis and Chikgan indigenous communities, located in the Condorcanqui province.

The medical teams include infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, and environmental health personnel.

The announcement comes as seven children between one and nine years old in the Kingkis community died, reportedly from rabies. Rabies is transmitted to humans from animals through close contact with infected saliva via bites or scratches.

The head of the Epidemiology Department in the Amazonas Regional Health Office, Eduardo Quesada, could not confirm the children’s deaths were caused by rabies, however he said they displayed common symptoms of the virus, including high fevers, spasms, and respiratory problems. Quesada said the virus was likely transmitted to the children by bat bites.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 55,000 people die of rabies each year. Ninety-five percent of those deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Between 2004 and 2005, 11 people died from rabies in Peru’s Condorcanqui province.

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