Quantifying the burden of vampire bat rabies in Peruvian livestock
Background: Knowledge of infectious disease burden is necessary to appropriately allocate resources for prevention and control. In Latin America, rabies is among the most important zoonoses for human health and agriculture, but the burden of disease attributed to its main reservoir, the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), remains uncertain. Methodology/Principal findings: We used questionnaires to quantify under-reporting of livestock deaths across 40 agricultural communities with differing access to health resources and epidemiological histories of vampire bat rabies (VBR) in the regions of Apurimac, Ayacucho and Cusco in southern Peru. Farmers who believed VBR was absent from their communities were one third as likely to report livestock deaths from disease as those who believed VBR was present, and under-reporting increased with distance from reporting offices. Using generalized mixedeffect models that captured spatial autocorrelation in reporting, we project 4.6 (95% CI: 4.4– 8.2) rabies cases per reported case and identify geographic areas with potentially greater VBR burden than indicated by official reports. Spatially-corrected models estimate 505–724 cattle deaths from VBR in our study area during 2014 (421–444 deaths/100,000 cattle), costing US$121,797–171,992. Cost benefit analysis favoured vaccinating all cattle over the current practice of partial vaccination or halting vaccination all together. Conclusions: Our study represents the first estimate of the burden of VBR in Latin America to incorporate data on reporting rates. We confirm the long-suspected cost of VBR to small-scale farmers and show that vaccinating livestock is a cost-effective solution to mitigate the burden of VBR. More generally, results highlight that ignoring geographic variation in access to health resources can bias estimates of disease burden and risk.