Swine Flu Strikes Endangered Amazonian Tribe

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


I can’t find this story anywhere in US news outlets. Whereas the BBC—twice as far away—features it on their online front page.

According to Survival International, swine flu has killed seven members of the Yanomami, an endangered Amazonian tribe. Another 1,000 Yanomami are reported to have caught the virulent strain. The regional office of the World Health Organization confirms swine flu.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has sealed the area and sent in medical teams, amid fears the epidemic could kill many more Indians. According to Survival International:

In the 1980-90s, when goldminers invaded their land, one fifth of the Yanomami in Brazil died from diseases such as flu and malaria introduced by the miners. Stephen Corry, director of Survival said, “The situation is [now] critical. We could once more see hundreds of Yanomami dying of treatable diseases. This would be utterly devastating for this isolated tribe, whose population has only just recovered from the epidemics which decimated their population 20 years ago.”

The Yanomami are the largest relatively isolated tribe in the Amazon rainforest, with a population of 32,000 straddling the mountainous border between Venezuela and Brazil. Because of this isolation, the Yanomami possess little resistance to introduced diseases. Furthermore, there’s virtually no medical infrastructure in their forested homeland. Certainly not an ICU, I gather.
 

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  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.