Changing Planet

Swine Flu Outbreak Among Amazon Tribes Alarms Anthropologists

The first cases of swine flu have just been reported amongst Amazonian Indians, raising experts’ fears of a devastating contagion among peoples with no immunity to outside diseases, Survival reports.

Matsigenka picture.png“Seven members of the Matsigenka tribe living along the Urubamba River in the Peruvian Amazon have tested positive for the virus, according to the regional health department in Cusco,” the UK-based advocacy group said in a news statement.

Survival supports the rights of tribal people worldwide.

“Tribal peoples across the world are particularly vulnerable to swine flu, as many have poor immunity, live in poverty, and have high rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease,” the organization said.

“In Australia, Aborigines, who have a life expectancy 15-20 years less than non-Aborigines, account for almost one in ten deaths from swine flu.

“In Canada, First Nations communities in Manitoba have seen infection rates of 130 per 100,000, compared with 24 per 100,000 among the general population”.

Anthropologist Glenn Shepard, an expert on the Matsigenka Indians, said, “The arrival of swine flu amongst the Matsigenka is especially worrying as they are known to have intermittent contact with quite isolated Indian groups living nearby.”

“Isolated tribes have no immunity to the infectious diseases that circulate though our industrial society and will be particularly susceptible to swine flu.”

Stafford Lightman, Professor of Medicine at Bristol University told Survial, “Isolated tribes have no immunity to the infectious diseases that circulate though our industrial society and will be particularly susceptible to swine flu. This could be devastating, infecting whole communities simultaneously, leaving no-one to care for the sick or bring in and prepare food.”

Stephen Corry, director of Survival, said, “This news is very worrying indeed. Isolated tribes across the world already face threats from illegal loggers, ranchers, poachers, and even over-zealous tourists, encroaching on their lands and bringing diseases against which they have no immunity. In times of a global pandemic, it is even more important than ever that their land rights are recognised and protected before it is too late.”

Also read:

Five “Uncontacted Tribes” Most Threatened With Extinction

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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