Epidemic Shiga-Bacillus Dysentery in Central America

Derivation of the Epidemic and Its Progression in Guatemala, 1968–68

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  • Ministry of Public Health, Guatemala, Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panamá, and Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333

The Central American epidemic of Shiga dysentery began in 1968 or early 1969 in the southwestern part of Guatemala. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that the epidemic extended rapidly eastward to the border of El Salvador and then to the north, encompassing the entire country during 1969. Data obtained from municipal death registers throughout the country revealed high death rates from dysentery in all age groups, particularly in children and aged persons. This indicated the interaction of a virulent organism in a highly susceptible population. Death rates were highest in the more densely populated lowlands, where malnutrition was more common and climatic conditions more severe. Males in all age groups were more severely affected than females. A study of sera obtained in a nationwide survey in 1965 demonstrated that the epidemic derived from a long-standing endemic focus.

Author Notes

Present address: Epidemiologist, Pan American Health Organization, Region IV, Lima, Perú.

Present address: Chief, Microbiology Division, Institute of Nutrition of Central American and Panamá (INCAP), Guatemala.

Deputy Chief, Bacterial Diseases Branch, Epidemiology Program, Center for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia 30333.

Present address: Epidemiologist, Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panamá (INCAP), Guatemala.