Bolivian Hemorrhagic Fever

Bolivian hemorrhagic fever is an infectious disease caused by the machupo virus. Normally people are infected when they touch rodent droppings or urine that have this virus, or when they touch or eat food that has been in contact with infected rodent feces. It can also be contracted if you inhale sprayed animal urine that is infected. The original vector is thought to be the vesper mouse (Calomys callosus).


It's very important to avoid immediately consuming food you've purchased in open markets in Bolivia. You should first thoroughly wash and/or peel your fruit and vegetables prior to eating them. In most cities, authorities require open markets to shut down for 1-2 days every 90 days or so for thorough cleaning and fumigation. However, this may or may not be the case in rural or small town environments. Mice and rats are common in open markets.

You should also consider being very careful if you volunteer at an animal shelter or refuge, making sure you use gloves and disinfect your hands and any exposed skin often. Also be careful if you visit a home with pets who are clearly not washed often. Bolivian hemorrhagic fever has been known to spread in domestic environments. Avoid touching stray dogs or cats, which may have had contact with infected feces.

The virus very rarely spreads from person to person, but it has happened occasionally in the past. Bolivian hemorrhagic fever is also known as black typhus or Ordog fever. The incubation period can be up to 2 weeks during which time the infected person would experience weakness, fever, vomiting, headaches and other symptoms (see below). The disease enters its hemorrhagic phase after about a week, at which time the infected person would begin to see blood in urine, gums, or vomit. The disease is often treated with Ribavirin. People who survive Bolivian hemorrhagic fever are normally immune to contracting it again.

Symptoms: Fever, vomiting, vomiting blood, bloody nose or gums, headaches, loss of appetite, dehydration, loss of appetite, blood in urine, muscle pain, reduced heart rate, and others.

Bolivian hemorrhagic fever should not be confused with dengue or hemorrhagic dengue fever.

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