Health Alert: U.S. Embassy La Paz, Bolivia (July 15, 2019)
Events: This notice provides information on several viruses currently present in Bolivia: Influenza H3N2, an Arenavirus Hemorrhagic Fever, and RSV.
- Influenza H3N2: In Bolivia, “flu season” typically runs from April to September with the peak occurring at the end of June. This year, the peak occurred right on schedule and the numbers of new cases have declined each week. Santa Cruz was by far the department most affected. Influenza H3N2 was the predominant strain and the cause of several deaths.
- New World Arenaviral Hemorrhagic Fever: According to the Ministry of Health, one individual from Caranavi died in May 2019 after presenting with symptoms consistent with hemorrhagic fever. Three medical professionals then contracted the virus, with two dying, respectively, on June 4 and July 10; the other remains in intensive care. There have been no additional cases reported by the Ministry of Health.
- In South America, arenaviral hemorrhagic fever is rare but not unknown. Arenaviruses are maintained in an animal reservoir host (usually a rodent), occur in a limited region, and are restricted by the geographical distribution of the animal. Humans can be infected when arenaviruses contact their mucous membranes or broken skin. Person-to-person transmission can occur when there is exposure to infected body secretions during close contact.
- Arenaviruses are treated with an antiviral medication. Onset of symptoms follows an incubation period of one to two weeks. Initial symptoms often include fever, malaise, muscle aches, and poor appetite. Most patients improve after a week or so, but about one third of untreated cases become severe after three to four days and result in fatality. Arenaviruses can be inactivated by most detergents and disinfectants, including 1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach). The risk of arenavirus infections can be decreased by avoiding contact with the reservoir host (usually rodents) and its excretions.
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Bolivia has also experienced a surge in respiratory syncytial virus cases that started in February 2019 and peaked in April. The trend continues downward but remains higher than last year’s levels. Respiratory syncytial virus, known more commonly as RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild cold symptoms and resolves in a week or two. However, RSV can cause serious respiratory symptoms in infants and older adults, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Treatment is focused on alleviating the symptoms.
Actions to Take:
- For more information on arenaviruses, visit https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/virus-families/arenaviridae.html, or contact your doctor.
- To prevent the flu, see your doctor to determine if you are a candidate for the flu vaccine. This year’s vaccine has the components to prevent the current strain of H3N2 in Bolivia. For more information, see the Pan American Health Organization’s Influenza Situation Report. https://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3352:influenza-situation-report&Itemid=2469&lang=fr
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State Department – Consular Affairs
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