Venezuela: no sign of rabies in Indian deaths
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan health officials have denied that rabies spread by vampire bats is killing Indians in remote villages, but didn't explain how they came to that conclusion.
«There is no rabies» among Warao Indians in the Orinoco River Delta, the Health Ministry announced Thursday after sending a team of specialists to the area. The trip came in response to calls for government intervention by a pair of University of California at Berkeley researchers who said they and indigenous leaders had counted at least 38 similar deaths in 30 villages since June 2007. They described symptoms consistent with rabies spread by bats.
But deputy health minister Nancy Perez said the Venezuelan government team found no confirmed deaths from bat bites and no evidence of rabies in the area. Perez's statement didn't say what tests had been performed to rule out rabies, and Perez wasn't immediately available for comment.
Perez said it was irresponsible for the husband-and-wife team of anthropologist Charles Briggs and public health specialist Dr. Clara Mantini-Briggs to make their concerns public.
«We aren't irresponsible. We made a presumptive diagnosis,» Mantini-Briggs said Friday. A Venezuelan who has long worked among the Warao, she said «the important thing is for them to clear up the causes of the deaths
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