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Rabid vampire bats menace Brazil

23 dead in 'unusually serious' spate of attacks

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The Brazilian health authorities are battling a wave of attacks by rabid vampire bats which have in the last two months killed 23 people. More than 1,300 bite victims have also been treated for rabies during the outbreak, which the authorities describe as "unusually serious". Vampire bats - the main carriers of rabies in Brazil - suck the blood of other mammals while they're asleep, and will commonly attack cattle.

According to the BBC, the incidents are centred in an area of marshland in the northen state of Maranhao where locals have been attempting to plug holes in their houses with banana leaves in an attempt to keep the killer bats out. Some experts say deforestation is the cause of the plague, as the bats are driven from their usual habitat; others reckon the bat population is on the up-and-up because of the growth in cattle farming.

There's more specific info on an attack by common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) on the Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo website. It records the first incident of vampire bat assault in the northeastern city of Olinda where a dog owner managed to grab some grainy snaps of three bats feeding on his pet Doberman. ®

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