The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Hemorrhagic Fever in Bolivia

Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Key Points

  • An outbreak of hemorrhagic fever was recently reported in Bolivia.
  • The outbreak is caused by an arenavirus that appears similar to Chapare virus, which causes Chapare hemorrhagic fever.
  • Travelers to Bolivia should avoid contact with rodents, with rodent urine or feces (droppings), and with people who are sick.

What are arenaviruses?

Arenaviruses are usually spread to people through contact with infected rodents or the urine or feces (droppings) of an infected rodent. Some arenaviruses have also been associated with secondary person-to-person spread, including spread in health care settings. While symptoms of arenaviruses can vary, New World arenaviruses have typically caused hemorrhagic fevers in people. Based on one documented case to date, symptoms of Chapare virus include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and vomiting. Treatment for arenavirus infection is supportive, including intravenous (IV) fluids and transfusions.

What is the current situation?

Health officials in Bolivia have reported an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever associated with an arenavirus similar to Chapare arenavirus. The first case was in a man from Caranavi Province. A health care provider who treated him became ill and was transferred to La Paz. Currently, several additional cases have been reported; all have been in health care providers or family members of the first patient.

Testing suggests that the virus is genetically similar to Chapare virus, a New World arenavirus that was first documented in Bolivia in 2003. During that outbreak, a small number of people became ill, and one died. Since then, no additional cases have been reported. Additional testing is ongoing to determine the exact cause of this outbreak.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

  • Although the animal source for this virus has not been confirmed, travelers should avoid contact with rodents and rodent urine or feces.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Travelers going to Bolivia to provide health care to local populations may be at risk and should wear full personal protective equipment when treating suspect hemorrhagic fever cases.

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