Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis in Southeast Asian Refugees Arriving in the United States—Isolation of Enterovirus 70

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  • Viral Diseases Division, Center for Infectious Diseases, and Quarantine Division, Center for Prevention Services, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia 30333
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During July–September 1980, an epidemic of acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis (AHC) occurred in several refugee camps and transit centers in Southeast Asia. Of 2,356 refugees examined in Bangkok, 200 (8.5%) had conjunctivitis, including 116 (58%) with hemorrhagic signs. Because increasing numbers of refugees were arriving in the United States with conjunctivitis, a program of surveillance and control was implemented. Enterovirus 70, not previously reported from patients in the Western Hemisphere, was cultured from four arriving refugees. A fourfold rise in titer to enterovirus 70 was found in 10 others, either in the United States or Thailand. After control measures were instituted, the prevalence of conjunctivitis in arriving refugees declined from 49.8 per 1,000 to 3.8 per 1,000. Follow-up of cases after arrival in the United States revealed only one possible secondary case. Extensive epidemics of AHC in the Western Hemisphere are most likely to occur following importation into the humid, coastal areas of Central and South America.