Brazil is currently experiencing an epidemic of yellow fever in some regions, and researchers are warning that monkeys are not among the disease’s transmitters. Since the outbreak began to spread, cases have been identified of primates killed by people who believed that these animals transmit the virus.
Under Law 9,605/98, maltreating, wounding or mutilating wildlife is an environmental crime punishable by fines or detention varying from three months to one year. Besides the legal aspect, it is worth remembering that monkeys are also victims of yellow fever: it is suspected that the disease was responsible for the deaths of approximately 80 howler monkeys in Espírito Santo.
The current epidemic, affecting rural zones of that state and of Minas Gerais, threatens not only humans, but entire populations of primates. The last outbreak of yellow fever in monkeys occurred between 2008 and 2009, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), and caused the deaths of more than 2000 howler monkeys, infected by a virus or killed by people who were badly informed about the yellow fever cycle.
Thais Leiroz Codenotti, researcher and coordinator of Convidas - Association for the Conservation of Wildlife, who led a project on this issue at the time, warns that the problem has been repeated this year. “Even though the clusters of yellow fever are in other states, here in Rio Grande do Sul we have already recorded cases of howler monkeys being attacked by the human population”, she warns.
The transmission of yellow fever can take place in two ways: jungle and urban. Jungle contagion occurs from monkeys to mosquitoes, normally of the Haemagogus or Sabethes species, which only live in the forest. The mosquitoes then transmit the virus from these infected monkeys to humans. “Urban yellow fever, which is far more common than jungle yellow fever, occurs when a person who has already been infected by the virus is bitten by a mosquito of the Aedes aegypti species, which then retransmits the disease to other people”, Codenotti explains.