An Epidemic of Oroya Fever in the Peruvian Andes

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  • Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, General de Control del Malaria y otras Enfermedades Ministero de Salud, Naval Medical Research Institute, Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment, Bernhard Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizen, Hospital de Pomabamba, Laboratorio de Bartonella, Instituto National de Salud, Washington, DC, Peru
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Between February and October 1987, a febrile illness killed 14 persons and seriously affected at least 14 others in Shumpillan, a remote Peruvian mountain village of 353 people. The illness was characterized by fever, headache, chills, and pallor. The fatality rate of untreated cases was 88%. The patients, 71% of whom were male, were 1–75 years of age. Fatal illnesses progressed from lethargy to coma to death in 3–60 days. Patients treated empirically with chloramphenicol survived. Bartonella bacilliformis was isolated from the whole blood of 3 patients. A serologic study revealed a high prevalence of antibodies to B. bacilliformis in the villagers. It is concluded that the villagers suffered from an epidemic of Oroya fever.