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Hepatitis Threatens to Wipe Out Two Amazon Tribes

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posted on Sep, 23 2003 @ 08:40 PM
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations (news - web sites) said Tuesday it had launched a vaccination campaign to save two tribes in the remote Peruvian Amazon threatened with extinction by a mysterious hepatitis B outbreak.

"Local leaders warned that (the two tribes) could face extinction within 10 to 12 years, if preventive action, especially among children, is not taken," the U.N. children's fund UNICEF said in a statement.

Peru's Health Minister asked UNICEF for help after 40 deaths were recorded in 2002 in one of the tribes, the Candoshi, with only 2,500 members. They suffered 145 cases in 2001 but it was not known how many people died that year.

There was no data for a neighboring tribe, the Sharpas, who were also at risk.

UNICEF aims to vaccinate all the tribes' 150 babies three times before they are one year old to try to stamp out the disease, which can cause liver failure.

The cause of the outbreak was a mystery as was the reason for the "amazingly" high mortality rate in a disease that often takes 20 to 25 years to manifest itself, said UNICEF spokesman Damien Personnaz.

The tribes live along the Pastaza and Morona rivers in an area of the Amazon basin so remote that travel from any of the 124 communities in which they live to the nearest health center can take four days.


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