The disease, called 'brown streak,' is scourging Eastern Africa. And right now it's infecting cassava, the most prevalent food source after rice and wheat. Cassava (also called manioc, tapioca or yuca) is eaten by 800 million people in Africa. It's resistance to drought and weeds make it appealing to local farmers to grow with little effort. This has been particularly beneficial throughout Africa's harsh droughts.
That was, until now.
Spreading like wildfire, 'brown streak' is infecting the flesh of cassava tubers with necrotic brown lumps. And once the disease hits, the crop is unsalvageable.. Cassava tubers infected with the disease are rendered inedible, even for animals.
Just the 'necrotic' reference alone has sent villagers and farmers into large scale panic. Rumors are rife that consuming the cassava's tubers will in turn lead to zombification. Fears that the virus had crossed into the food chain caused panic as far reaching as the EAFF (East African Farmers Association). That in turn prompted a 6 month scientific study to clarify once and for all the confusion and panic that was mounting.
The EAFF released a report last Thursday 4th. stating: "The results of the recent study into a possible cross species hybrid of the necro-mortosis virus has shown that their is no connection between the necrotic brown tubers found on the cassava plant and the mortosis zombification of humans. However, we strongly urge the eradication of the infecting plants wherever found. They are inedible and can cause serious sickness if ingested by either humans or animals."
The New York Times, reports that the Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and a foundation run by Monsanto have donated $50 million to try to combat the problem. This includes educating farmers on how to identify the disease and offer them clean cuttings of cassava to replace the infected ones.
Approximately 15% of Africa is currently affected by regional outbreaks of necro-mortosis. As many as 75,000 deaths resulting in reanimation have been attributed to the virus. Additionally, there are 35 towns and villages in a permanent state of quarantine.
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