Vaccinate monkeys, solution against another threatening epidemic

Already severely bereaved by the Covid-19, Brazil must face another deadly threat: yellow fever. Several epidemics of this acute viral hemorrhagic disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, have already struck the country, especially in 2016 and in 2017. With intensive deforestation, scientists fear that yellow fever will spread further.

This virus, which causes fever, vomiting and jaundice (hence its name yellow fever), kills 30,000 people each year –about 15% of patients die once infected, a rate much higher than Covid-19. Brazil is notably the most affected in the world in recent years, with outbreaks of infection in the middle of the atlantic forest, not far from densely populated cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

What scientists fear is that the virus will spread rapidly through tamarind monkeys, which act as disease “amplifiers”. explique BBC Future. These primates can indeed have yellow fever and, during their infection, the mosquitoes that bite them can in turn become infected. With deforestation, this phenomenon is accentuated due to the fact that monkeys and mosquitoes find themselves sharing an increasingly restricted space.

The threat is all the greater since many Brazilians are not vaccinated against this virus –a vaccine has been around for nearly a century. In the largest cities of Brazil, the rate of people vaccinated barely exceeds 50%, as in Rio de Janeiro. The distrust of the population vis-à-vis the government interfered with recent vaccination campaigns.

Vaccinate monkeys … and fight against deforestation

The American media therefore draws up an alarming report. A low vaccination rate, pressure on wildlife near densely populated urban areas, “amplifier” monkeys as well as too little production of vaccines against this virus: the conditions are ideal for a major epidemic to break out.

Faced with this threat, la Golden Lion Tamarin Association, a non-profit conservation group, has taken to vaccinating Brazilian forest tamarins.

The objective is twofold: to vaccinate them will serve both to prevent the spread of the virus, but also to save these primates – of which 30% of the population was decimated by yellow fever in 2017.

However, this vaccination campaign cannot be the only remedy. Tackling the real problem, deforestation, is fundamental. As the forest is eaten away by human activities, whether related to cattle ranching or the timber industry, viruses will continue to spread.

For several years, however, alarming reports have followed one another. In 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had in particular reached its highest level in twelve years, with more than 11,000 km² destroyed in twelve months.

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