A teenage boy from Brazil's indigenous Yanomami group has died after contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.
The 15-year-old spent nearly a week in the intensive care unit at the General Hospital of Roraima in Boa Vista, Brazil before succumbing to severe acute respiratory syndrome and complications from a lung infection associated with Covid-19, reports Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. He is the youngest reported indigenous person to die from the disease, according to the Associated Press. Independent investigative journalists with Amazônia Real report that the teenager's health was further impacted by “diseases such as malnutrition, anemia, [and] repetitive malaria.’
Vice President Dario Yawarioma of the Hutukara Associação Yanomami, who represents the group, shared a video to YouTube with his condolences, noting that the boy had reportedly moved from his home village about a year ago to study at another village. He was initially hospitalized in March but was released by doctors. After returning home, his health quickly deteriorated and he was airlifted to an area hospital a week later.
The Yanomami are slash-and-burn agriculturalists of about 26,000 individuals who live in semi-permanent villages on a reservation along Brazil’s border with Venezuela. The group was at the center of controversy in the 1970s after facing high contraction rates of infectious diseases from illegal gold miners who brought with them measles and other devastating diseases, according to Reuters.
Health officials say the boy’s death is sounding the alarm on the vulnerability indigenous peoples face. It's thought at least five indigenous peoples have now died of Covid-19, including a 44-year-old Kokama woman and a 78-year-old Tikuna who died from complications after contracting the virus.
The Ministry of Health has since launched initiatives to prevent coronavirus spread in indigenous populations by publishing guidelines on how to treat indigenous people with symptoms that are related to Covid-19. Orders give indigenous groups priority in treatment, as well as hope to raise community awareness of disease prevention and control measures to identify early signs and symptoms of the disease.
Local leaders are asked to adopt restrictive measures of people entering indigenous territories where the unique lifestyles of inhabitants make them particularly susceptible to infectious diseases. The government has expanded healthcare to indigenous people and anticipates administering vaccinations later this week.