Remote tribe members enter another village, catch flu

by Nancy Owano weblog
This image shows members of an uncontacted tribe in the Brazilian state of Acre. Credit: Government of Brazil

Advocates for indigenous tribes are worried over incidents last month when some members of one of the last uncontacted tribes in the Peru/Brazil region, across borders, left their home in Peru and entered the village across the border, making contact for the first time with people in a settled Ashaninka community. The seven were sickened, alarming researchers about the risk of how diseases may decimate previously isolated peoples with no immunities. Responding to the risks of disease transmission, a government medical team treated the newly infected people and gave them flu immunizations.

The situation though took another turn when the contacted people then went back to their forest home, Their return has observers worried that they still could spread the sickness back to their tribe. Science News, from the journal Science, quoted Chris Fagan, executive director at the Upper Amazon Conservancy in Jackson, Wyoming. "We can only hope that [the FUNAI team members] were able to give out treatment before the sickness was spread to the rest of the tribe in the forest," says Chris Fagan, executive director at the Upper Amazon Conservancy in Jackson, Wyoming. "Only time will tell if they reacted quickly enough to divert a catastrophic epidemic." FUNAI refers to Brazil's Indian affairs department.

On Friday, Heather Pringle reported in Science News that some scientists and Brazil's government disagree if the people who came down with flu received enough medical treatment. "At least one scientist fears that the illness is just the start of a health catastrophe for the tribe."

The scientists say fuller precautions may have had to be taken regarding the seven people who then slipped back into the forest. In Pringle's report, anthropologist Kim Hill of Arizona State University said a health worker or anthropologist should have been sent with the departing individuals to administer antibiotics in case pneumonia and other infections spread in the home village.

What are the reasons for last month's contact? Reports say illegal loggers and drug smugglers may be forcing people in isolated groups to leave their land and look for assistance elsewhere in settled communities. A report in The Guardian noted growing drug trafficking activity across the border. "Peru has overtaken Colombia as the world's biggest producer of coca leaf, the primary ingredient for cocaine and crack. Brazil is the second biggest market for the drugs after the US."

Virologist Frederick Hayden of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville said in Science that he thought, in general, that the flu immunizations could do some good, although he did not know the particulars of this case. The shots, while not effective at treating the illness, could protect the seven people from future exposure to flu. Hayden added that early treatment with influenza antiviral medications could shorten the duration of illness and reduce the risk of lower .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brazil fears traffickers may have killed natives

Aug 10, 2011

Officials in Brazil have said they had no news of an isolated tribe of Amazonian natives who may have been attacked by suspected Peruvian drug traffickers, amid fears of a bloodbath.

Recommended for you

First case of Ebola confirmed in Mali

5 hours ago

Mali's health ministry on Thursday said the country had its first confirmed case of Ebola after a two-year-old girl who had recently been in Guinea tested positive for the virus.

New York confirms first Ebola case

5 hours ago

A doctor who recently returned to New York from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive on Thursday for the deadly virus, the first confirmed case in the city, officials said.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bluehigh
5 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2014
The caption for the image says ... as seen from satellite images.

The resolution quality and angle of view seems more likely Not a satellite image.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2014
Good catch, bluehigh!

(And it is not some new super-camera on a satellite, either.
The people on the ground are looking at the aircraft, and several even have their weapons with them.)
stripeless_zebra
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
...as seen from satellite images.

We all know the indigenous people have an eagle view. They spotted the satellite and are getting ready to shoot it down with their bows. Ha, ha, ha!
axemaster
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
The caption for the image says ... as seen from satellite images.

The resolution quality and angle of view seems more likely Not a satellite image.

Yeah, I actually recognize this picture, it's from a helicopter or a plane. Notice that the villagers are looking toward the camera - they are aware of the heli/plane.

This pic is from a documentary, you can probably find it somewhere on youtube.