Bolivian hemorrhagic fever (BHF), also known as black typhus or Ordog Fever, is a hemorrhagic fever and zoonotic infectious disease originating in Bolivia after infection by Machupo virus.
BHF was first identified in 1963 as an ambisense RNA virus of the Arenaviridae family, by a research group led by Karl Johnson. The mortality rate is estimated at 5 to 30 percent. Due to its pathogenicity, Machupo virus requires Biosafety Level Four conditions, the highest level.
In February and March 2007, some 20 suspected BHF cases (3 fatal) were reported to the El Servicio Departamental de Salud (SEDES) in Beni Department, Bolivia, and in February 2008, at least 200 suspected new cases (12 fatal) were reported to SEDES. In November 2011, a SEDES expert involved in a serosurvey to determine the extent of Machupo virus infections in the Department after the discovery of a second confirmed case near the departmental capital of Trinidad in November, 2011, expressed concern about expansion of the virus' distribution outside the endemic zone in MamorÃ© and ItÃ©nez provinces.
The disease was first encountered in 1962, in the Bolivian village of San Joachim, hence the name "Bolivian" Hemorrhagic Fever. When initial investigations failed to find an arthropod carrier, other sources were sort before finally determining that the disease was carried by infected mice. Interestingly, although mosquitoes were not the cause as originally suspected, the extermination of mosquitoes using DDT to prevent malaria proved to be indirectly responsible for the outbreak in that the accumulation of DDT in various animals along the food chain led to a shortage of cats in the village, subsequently a mouse plague erupted in the village leading to an epidemic.
The vector is the vesper mouse Calomys callosus, a rodent indigenous to northern Bolivia. Infected animals are asymptomatic and shed the virus in excreta, thereby infecting humans. Evidence of person-to-person transmission of BHF exists but is believed to be rare.
The infection has a slow onset with fever, malaise, headache and muscular pains, very similar to Malaria symptoms. Petechiae (blood spots) on the upper body and bleeding from the nose and gums are observed when the disease progresses to the hemorrhagic phase, usually within seven days of onset.
Measures to reduce contact between the vesper mouse and humans may have contributed to limiting the number of outbreaks, with no cases identified between 1973 and 1994. Although there are no cures or vaccine for the disease, a vaccine developed for the genetically related JunÃn virus which causes Argentine hemorrhagic fever has shown evidence of cross-reactivity to Machupo virus, and may therefore be an effective prophylactic measure for people at high risk of infection. Post infection (and providing that the person survives the infection), those that have contracted BHF are usually immune to further infection of the disease.
Bolivian hemorrhagic fever was one of three hemorrhagic fevers and one of more than a dozen agents that the United States researched as potential biological weapons before the nation suspended its biological weapons program. It was also under research by the Soviet Union, under the Biopreparat bureau.
Investigational vaccines exist for Argentine hemorrhagic fever and RVF; however, neither is approved by FDA or commonly available in the United States.
- ^ Medical Microbiology 2nd Edition Mims et al. Mosby Publishing 1998 p 371