05/24/2012 02:22 pm ET

Rabies-Infected Bats Kill 7 Children In Peru

Rabies-infected bats have killed 7 children in rural Peru, Fox News Latino reports.

Ana Maria Navarro, a Peruvian Health Ministry official, said Wednesday that the children, aged 11 months to 14 years, contracted rabies after been bitten by bats in a remote community of 720 people in the Peruvian Amazon, approximately 721 miles from the capital, Lima.

"According to the symptoms and medical reports, it appears the seven indigenous children died of rabies," she said.

Additional health officials have been dispatched to vaccinate members of the children's Amazon community. According to the BBC, the settlement is so isolated that it can only be reached by river.

Fox News Latino reports that one Peruvian lawmaker suggested that the deaths had been caused by poisoning from a gas-leak contaminated water supply.

This claim echoes past concerns surrounding industrial encroachment in the Peruvian Amazon. In 2011, PBS reported that a gold-mining boom in the Peru Amazon has given rise to extraction methods that allegedly poison water supplies with mercury. Mercury, a toxic liquid metal, is used by small-scale Peruvian gold miners to separate gold from rocks and soil, according to the report.

The BBC reports that Peruvian authorities are targeting indigenous communities in a health campaign spurred by deadly rabies outbreaks in past years. According to the Peruvian vice minister of health, Percy Minaya, 180,000 doses of rabies vaccine have been bought.

Rabies, a fatal disease that causes inflammation in the brain, can be transmitted by vampire bats. Although the bats usually prey on livestock and other wildlife, destruction of their rainforest habitat can cause them to feed on humans, according to the BBC.