Investigating an Epidemic among Indigenous Children in Venezuela
by Ian Read
Una enfermedad monstruo: Indígenas derribando el cerco de la discriminación en saludBriggs Charles L.,Gómez Norbelys,Gómez Tirso & Mantini-Briggs Clara Una enfermedad monstruo: Indígenas derribando el cerco de la discriminación en salud. Buenos Aires: Lugar Editorial, 2015.
Tell Me Why My Children Died: Rabies, Indigenous Knowledge, and Communicative JusticeBriggs Charles L. & Mantini-Briggs Clara Tell Me Why My Children Died: Rabies, Indigenous Knowledge, and Communicative Justice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.
In 2007, indigenous children in the rain forest of eastern Venezuela began dying from a mysterious disease. The local physician, healers, and epidemiologists could not determine the cause. When a second and third wave of deaths occurred in 2008, Conrado Moraleda, the president of the local health committee, gathered a team to carry out an investigation that state officials seemed unwilling to do. The team included Clara Mantini-Briggs, a Venezuelan public health physician, and her husband, Charles L. Briggs, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. They and three others visited 30 communities spread out across a large portion of the Amacuro Delta, where the Warao people distinguish their settlements from the tierra firma of the criollos (nonindigenous). Moving from town to town by motorboat, the group stumbled upon an important clue: some communities reported unusual behavior of and bites by Desmodus rotundus, the common vampire bat that can carry rabies. More evidence of this disease was presented by agonizing and telltale symptoms and a frightening mortality rate. The team halted its investigation early to notify state and national authorities. Despite extraordinary efforts, it was ultimately unsuccessful in convincing the Venezuelan government even that an epidemic had occurred, let alone one caused by rabid bats.
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