Mysterious Epidemic Slowly Killing a Paraguayan Tribe

Mysterious respiratory illness is spreading through the tribe and its symptoms are similar to tuberculosis.

A tribe of indigenous people are under threat from an epidemic sweeping through the forests of Paraguay.

Members of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group have been struck down with a mysterious tuberculosis-like respiratory illness that is slowly killing them.

The people have been forced out of isolation due to deforestation for decades, and once they come into contact with society, they do not have the immunisation to tackle disease.

Despite its similarities to TB, many tribe members suffering from the mysterious disease have tested negative for tuberculosis, and doctors have been left baffled.

Survival International, a human righta organisation that campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal and ‘uncontacted’ people, is warning the tribe may be wiped out unless the illness is identified and treated.

‘The deadly epidemic threatens to wipe out Paraguay’s recently contacted Ayoreo tribe, and sets a deadly precedent for their relatives still hiding in the forests, who are the last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon,’ said the organisation.

The Totobiegosode is an indigenous sub-group of the Ayoreo people living along the Gran Chaco which stretches from Argentina into Paraguay. Some members are also found in Bolivia.

Since the 1940s, local governments and groups have made numerous attempts to contact the tribe, and during the 1970s and 80s many tribe members have been forced from their river and forest villages towards the towns.

More recently, during the 1990s and again in 2004, tribe members were placed in settlements so the land they were living on could be reclaimed.

The most recent Ayoreo victim killed by the respiratory disease, called Chiri Etacore, was forced out of the forest in 1986 and died in October last year.

Almost all the Ayoreo members who have been forced from their lands have suffered from the rare disease in one form or another.

Some groups still live uncontacted, or in voluntary isolation, but may still be under threat from the epidemic as it spreads through the land.

‘When uncontacted people are forced into contact with outside society disease swiftly follows.

‘Here is proof that forced contact is nothing more than a death sentence for tribal peoples.

‘Paraguay must act now to protect the lives of the last uncontacted Indians outside Amazonia,’ said Survival’s director Stephen Corry.

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