Venezuelan equine encephalitis febrile cases among humans in the Peruvian Amazon River region.

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  • 1 U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment, NAMRID/Unit 3800, Lima, Peru.
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A survey was conducted from October 1, 1993 to June 30, 1995 to determine the arboviral etiologies of febrile illnesses in the city of Iquitos in the Amazon River Basin of Peru. The study subjects were patients who were enrolled at medical care clinics or in their homes by Peruvian Ministry of Health (MOH) workers as part of the passive and active disease surveillance program of the MOH. The clinical criterion for enrollment was the diagnosis of a suspected viral-associated, acute, undifferentiated febrile illness of < or = 5 days duration. A total of 598 patients were enrolled in the study. Demographic information, medical history, clinical data, and blood samples were obtained from each patient. The more common clinical features were fever, headache, myalgia, arthralgia, retro-ocular pain, and chills. Sera were tested for virus by the newborn mouse and cell culture assays. Viral isolates were identified initially by immunofluorescence using polyclonal antibody. An ELISA using viral-specific monoclonal antibodies and nucleotide sequence analysis were used to determine the specific variety of the viruses. In addition, thin and thick blood smears were observed for malaria parasites. Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus subtype I, variety ID virus was isolated from 10 cases, including three cases in October, November, and December 1993, five cases in January and February 1994, and two cases in June 1995. The ELISA for IgM and IgG antibody indicated that VEE virus was the cause of an additional four confirmed and four presumptive cases, including five from January through March 1994 and three in August 1994. Sixteen cases were positive for malaria. The 18 cases of VEE occurred among military recruits (n = 7), agriculture workers (n = 3), students (n = 3), and general laborers (n = 5). These data indicated that an enzootic strain of VEE virus was the cause of at least 3% (18 of 598) of the cases of febrile illnesses studied in the city of Iquitos in the Amazon Basin region of Peru.