Yellow Fever Epidemic Killing Off Brazil’s Howler Monkeys

Ever since the first yellow fever epidemic was recorded in the Yucatán Peninsula in 1648, this mosquito-borne illness has ravaged communities around the world in various outbreaks. This virus causes severe fever, muscle pain, and severe bleeding in the liver that can lead to death. Yellow fever can also spread between humans and monkeys via mosquito transmission, which is probably how it was first passed to humans.

A current yellow fever outbreak in parts of Brazil is threatening to wipe out several populations of howler monkeys in that country. Thousands of these monkeys, known for their loud calls, have died already, with no sign of the epidemic slowing down. Large areas of protected rainforest areas, that used to resonate with the sounds of the brown howler monkey, have fallen silent.

lazoo.org
lazoo.org

Unlike past yellow fever epidemics in monkey populations, this one was probably not introduced by other monkeys. In fact, humans may be the culprits. Humans can become infected with the disease without showing symptoms. If they then travel to another area, and are then bitten by a mosquito, the mosquitos can pass the disease to monkeys nearby who have no natural immunity to the illness and who cannot be vaccinated against it. Humans can also carry contaminated mosquitos into the forests in their cars and luggage.

Though the decimation of this species is heart-breaking, there are other reasons to be concerned about this outbreak. First, it is spreading rapidly. It is jumping from one population of monkeys to another, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. Scientists have never seen an outbreak of the disease spread so far and so quickly. This could cause multiple and widespread groups of monkeys to be eliminated, which could have severe ecological repercussions for the rainforest.

This outbreak has also caused an epidemic among humans, the worst of its kind in decades. Officially, there have been over 320 human cases of yellow fever this year, and at least 220 deaths. There may be even more cases that have gone unreported in more remote areas. Authorities have been scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible against the illness, and millions have already received the vaccine. A major concern for scientists and environmentalists is that people will wrongfully blame the monkeys for the disease, and will end up killing even more of them in an attempt to stop the spread of it.

Even with the loss of so many howler monkeys, many scientists believe the species can rebound after this epidemic. They are more concerned that it may spread to several threatened and endangered money species in the area, such as the black capuchin and the northern muriqui. Researchers are keeping a close eye on the epidemic to try to protect all of these monkeys. They also hope to learn about the spread of the disease so they can try to prevent, or lessen the impact of, future outbreaks.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Ireland’s Most Haunted Castle

    Don’t let its name fool you. Leap Castle, in Ireland’s County Offaly, is not named for people leaping off it. (In fact, Leap is actually pronounced “Lepp” in this instance.) It is however, reputed to be the most haunted castle in all of Ireland, and it may be the most haunted one in the world....

    Read More
  • Jacques Saint-Germain: New Orleans Vampire

    New Orleans is well-known for its eccentric inhabitants. If you’re into ghost stories, voodoo, or pretty much anything paranormal, you can find something of interest in this Louisiana city. It should come as no surprise, then, that The Big Easy had its very own vampire scare in the 20th century. One night in 1903, the...

    Read More
  • The Uninhabited Garbage Island in the South Pacific

    In 2015, a group of researchers traveled to Henderson Island, a small atoll in the South Pacific. This uninhabited island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been remarkable because its pristine beauty had been largely unaffected by humans. What the scientists found when they visited Henderson has proved that humanity’s capacity for destroying...

    Read More
  • When the Wealthy Hired Their Own Personal Garden Gnomes

    Most people are familiar with garden gnomes, the ornamental wooden or plastic creatures found in many gardens and dressed like Snow White’s seven dwarves. But did you know that in the 18th century you could hire a real person to act as your very own garden decoration? The practice was actually quite popular among the...

    Read More
  • How Inbreeding Caused the End of a Royal Family

    The Spanish branch of the Habsburg family once ruled vast swathes of land in Europe. At one point, they controlled not only Spain, but areas in modern-day Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and even the Americas, among other areas. But this powerful family came to a crashing end in 1700. It wasn’t war or murder that destroyed...

    Read More
  • One of the Art World’s Most Successful Hoaxes

    Paul Jordan-Smith was an editor and a literary critic for a major newspaper before he rose to great fame as an artist. In 1913, he developed a distaste for modern art after visiting an exhibition of modern artwork in Chicago. This was the first source of his inspiration to become an artist. The second and...

    Read More
  • New Jersey’s Most Famous Elephant

    America has plenty of interesting roadside attractions. World’s largest ball of twine? We have that. A replica of Stonehenge made out of old cars? We have that, too. We also have the world’s largest elephant building, which is located in Margate, New Jersey, beside the beach in Josephine Harron Park. This elephant building isn’t just...

    Read More
  • How Mother’s Day Ruined its Founder

    Mother’s Day for many people is a lighthearted celebration. It’s a day to take your mother to brunch, get her a card, or send her some flowers. But for the creator of the American version of the holiday, it was a serious business, and her support for it eventually ruined her life. Anna Jarvis, the...

    Read More