An outbreak of severe haemorrhagic illness began in the municipality of Guanarito, Portuguesa State, Venezuela, in September, 1989. Subsequent detailed study of 15 cases confirmed the presence of a new viral disease, designated Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever. Characteristic features are fever, toxicity, headache, arthralgia, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, pharyngitis, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia, and haemorrhagic manifestations. Other features include facial oedema, cervical lymphadenopathy, nausea/vomiting, cough, chest or abdominal pain, and convulsions. The patients ranged in age from 6 to 54 years; all were residents of rural areas in central Venezuela, and 9 died. Infection with Guanarito virus, a newly recognised arenavirus, was shown by direct culture or by serological confirmation in all cases. Epidemiological studies suggest that the disease is endemic in some rural areas of central Venezuela and that it is rodent-borne. Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever has many similarities to Lassa fever and to the arenavirus haemorrhagic fevers that occur in Argentina and Bolivia.
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