Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis and Oropouche Virus Infections among Peruvian Army Troops in the Amazon Region of Peru

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  • U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment, NAMRID/Unit 3800, American Embassy, Santa Rosa Army Hospital, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute, Lima, Peru
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An outbreak of a febrile illness characterized by headache, ocular pain, myalgia, and arthralgia occurred during June 1994 among Peruvian army troops in Northern Peru. On June 14–16, 1994, clinical data and blood samples were obtained from eight soldiers with a febrile illness, and from 26 others who had a history of febrile illness during the past three months. A follow-up blood sample was obtained 107 days later from four of the febrile and seven of the afebrile soldiers. Serum samples were tested for dengue (DEN), Oropouche (ORO), and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) IgM and IgG antibodies by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Virus isolation was performed by inoculation of newborn mice and Vero cell cultures. Viral isolates were identified by immunofluorescence, ELISA, and nucleotide sequencing. A VEE virus infection was confirmed in three of the eight febrile soldiers, two by virus isolation, and one by serology. Antigenic analysis indicated that one of the virus isolates was similar to VEE subtype I, variety ID, viruses previously isolated in Colombia and Venezuela. Nucleotide sequence data showed that both viral isolates were identical to one another and closely related to VEE ID viruses previously isolated in Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. Serologic results showed that two of 26 afebrile soldiers had IgM antibody to VEE and four had IgG antibody to VEE; two febrile soldiers had IgG antibody in their first serum samples. Oropouche-specific IgM antibody was detected in one of the eight febrile and five of the afebrile soldiers, and 18 of the 34 soldiers had low titers of ORO IgG antibody titers, which did not meet the diagnostic criteria for confirmed cases. All soldiers were negative for DEN IgM antibody, and 10 had flavivirus IgG antibody that reacted with DEN antigens. These data indicated that VEE ID virus was one of the causes of illness among Peruvians soldiers and that this was the first association of this VEE subtype with human disease in Peru.