Report: Soldiers Refused to Join Brazil Mission Over Yellow Fever Fears

Rescue workers search for victims of a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil, February 2, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

When the IDF sent out an aid mission to Brazil to help out with the recovery of the Brumadinho dam burst, the decision was a more or less immediate one – as the circumstances required. And because it was an immediate decision, the time to prepare the mission was extremely limited – and one of the things that the army could not prepare for in advance were inoculations against yellow fever, Channel 12 news reported. As a result, ten soldiers refused to get on the plane bound for Brazil – and they were excused from the mission.

Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted largely by mosquito bites, and the area where the dam burst is one with a large population of infected mosquitos. Yellow fever can be prevented by an inoculation, but the body requires several days to develop the antibodies needed to be able to resist the disease. As it is a virus, antibiotics are ineffective against the disease – so those who were sent on the mission were technically at risk for infection, unless they had been inoculated against yellow fever previously.

While soldiers and volunteer reserve soldiers – members of the 130-strong Israeli mission sent to deal with the disaster – were inoculated before they left, soldiers were warned that they could be at risk before the inoculation was completely effective. The army instructed mission members to avoid situations where they would bitten by mosquitos – and to wear long clothes, use anti-mosquito spray and salves, wear hats, etc. Ten soldiers who were chosen on the mission decided not to go, out of concern that they could be exposed.

In a statement, the IDF said that “in the area where the mission was active there was a danger of infection of yellow fever and of the Zika virus, both transmitted by mosquitos. After evaluating the situation, it was decided to allow several members of the mission to remain behind based on personal and medical issues.”

The mission wrapped up over the weekend, and so far, none of the members appear to have contracted any disease. The incubation period for yellow fever can be as long as a week, and it is hoped that if any soldiers were infected, that the inoculation would now be effective in helping their bodies fight off the virus.