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Bolivia

Bolivia US Consular Information Sheet
July 19, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America. Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in qualit
. The capital is La Paz, accessible by Bolivia's international airport in El Alto. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bolivia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport valid for at least six months from the date of proposed entry into Bolivia is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizen tourists do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended up to 90 days upon application to the Bolivian immigration authorities). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart. For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy's Web site at . An exit tax is charged when departing Bolivia by air. Travelers with Bolivian citizenship or residency pay an additional fee upon departure. While the Bolivian Government does not require travelers to purchase round-trip air tickets in order to enter the country, some airlines have required travelers to purchase round-trip tickets prior to boarding aircraft bound for Bolivia. Some tourists arriving by land report that immigration officials did not place entry stamps in their passports, causing problems at checkpoints and upon departure. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Bolivia and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Bolivia web site at for the most current visa information (please note that the web site is primarily in Spanish).

Bolivian consulates are located in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at (please note that the web site is in Spanish), fax/telephone (591-2) 211-0960, street address Avenida Camacho entre Loayza y Bueno, La Paz, Bolivia. See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the international child abduction . Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian Government has initiated procedures at entry/exit points. Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a t ravel permit may be obtained from the Juzgado del Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The countrywide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. The National Tourism Police has an office in La Paz, with plans to expand to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, providing free assistance to tourists 24 hours a day. These services include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables. The La Paz office is located at Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, planta baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-0516.

Protests, strikes, and other civic actions can occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level. This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other changes in government. While protest actions generally begin peacefully, they have the potential to become violent. The police have used tear gas to break up protests. In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they sometimes react with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks and occasionally have used the threat of explosives to press their point.

U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations. Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Roadblocks and demonstrations in June 2005 led to the closure of the El Alto airport in La Paz, resulting in cancellation and diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers. U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service in and out of La Paz and other airports. Americans should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned. Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.

U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to "run" a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances. U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591)(2)(216-8297 or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba at (591)(4)425-6714 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water. The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least one week's supply of drinking water and canned food in case roadblocks affect supplies, as occurred in June 2005. For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Web site at . That Web site includes a Spanish language version.

Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Registration may be done online and in advance of travel. Information on registering may be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website .

In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations subsided, many of the underlying social, political, and economic causes remain, and in March 2005, several intercity roads, including Bolivia's major east-west highway, were closed by blockades for several weeks.

Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on three occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.

In the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.

Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication have resulted in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel. Violence has also erupted recently between squatters unlawfully invading private land and security forces attempting to remove them.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site , where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad .

CRIME: The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pick pocketing and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common. Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.

Bolivian police state that there are currently eight organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified.

There have been reports of "false police" -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists. Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the "fiscal" or prosecutor to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present. If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the nearest U.S. Consular Office (in La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).

According to press reports, criminals using the "false police" method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz. The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white taxi offer taxi services to the potential victim. They focus on European/American tourists who are not wearing a traditional "trekker" backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags. A few blocks after the potential victim boards the taxi another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the taxi with the potential victim. With all the accomplices then in place, the "false police" stop the taxi, "search" the passengers, and rob the victim. As part of this scam, the false police may take the victim to a "false police" station.

A similar variation also introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street. The "tourist" will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner. After a period of time, the "police" intercept the victims and the "tourist." At this point, the "police" discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the "tourist." The entire group is then taken to the "police station." At this point, the "police" seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims. The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.

Another technique again introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This "tourist" can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims. This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the "tourist" is to build the trust of the victims. Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the "tourist" suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi). The "taxi" picks up the victims and the "tourist" and delivers the group to a safe house in the area. At this point the victims are informed that they are now kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.

Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card. The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006. During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.

In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility. The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing. Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid. All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be suspicious of all "coincidences" that can happen on a trip. If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.

Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a PIN number. While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.

Five years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime .
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited-to-non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia, and prescription and over the counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. In March 2005, several cases of yellow fever were reported in the Chapare region. News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at . For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at . Further health information for travelers is available at .

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most medical evacuation flights cannot land at the airport serving La Paz due to the altitude; instead flights may need to use the international airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing.

Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.

The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they have any of the following:

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension, angina, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the trip.
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz and surrounding areas.
Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before travel to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.

For additional information, travelers should visit the World Health Organization's website at as well as the CDC's travel warning on high altitude sickness at .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. U.S. citizens planning on driving in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver's license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.

Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous. Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved. Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal. Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm. For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.

The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service. In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, and on the Yungas road. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intracity transportation. From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe and violent assaults are rare. However, petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur. For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to use radio taxis whenever possible.

Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities. Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law. The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm . There are limited flights within Bolivia and to neighboring countries. Flight delays and cancellations are common. In February and March 2006, strikes at national carrier Lloyd Aereo Boliviano led to the cancellation of both national and international flights with resultant delays and other inconveniences for travelers.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In the run-up to the July 2006 Constituent Assembly elections, President Morales accused the United States military of infiltrating Bolivia with operatives disguised as "students and tourists." As an apparent result of these comments, some U.S. citizens have reported harassment by Bolivian officials and been subjected to unwanted media attention. In one case, a local Bolivian newspaper wrongly identified an American citizen as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans planning on traveling to Bolivia should be aware of the political atmosphere and the possibility of unwanted attention from pro-governmental groups and other Bolivian officials.

For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at (please note that the Web site is in Spanish), fax/telephone (591-2) 211-0960, street address Avenida Camacho entre Loayza y Bueno, La Paz, Bolivia. In emergency cases, the Immigration Service may permit temporary residency applicants to retrieve their passports from those applications. However, under current regulations in such cases the applicant would need to commence the application anew, including paying the corresponding fees. Any U.S. documents, such as birth, marriage, divorce or death certificates, to be presented in Bolivia must first be authenticated in the U.S. at the nearest Bolivian Embassy or consulate. For information on those procedures, please consult the Department of State Office of Authentications web site, www.state.gov/m/a/auth , and the nearest Bolivian Embassy or consulate.

Please see our information on customs regulations .
MARRIAGE: Please see our information on marriage in Bolivia , available on the Embassy's Web site at
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in Bolivia. Since June 2002, four American citizens have died in falls while mountain climbing in Bolivia. Three of the deaths occurred on Illimani, a 6,402-meter peak located southeast of La Paz. Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and robberies. The safest option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate in both Spanish and English. If you develop any of the following symptoms while climbing at altitude - severe headache, weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath at rest, cough, chest tightness, unsteadiness - descend to a lower altitude immediately. Trekkers and climbers are strongly encouraged to purchase adequate insurance to cover expenses in case of injury or death.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties .

It often takes years to reach a decision in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes, civil, or criminal matters. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can order a defendant held in jail for the duration of the case. Prison conditions are primitive, and prisoners are expected to pay for food and lodging. For further information, please see the Annual Human Rights Report for Bolivia at . Lists of local Bolivian attorneys and their specialties are available from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and the Consular Agencies in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, and may also be found on our Web site at .

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website . Pending U.S. implementation of the Hague Convention on International Adoptions, under Bolivian law U.S. citizens who are not resident in Bolivia are not permitted to adopt Bolivian children./p>

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agency through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Bolivia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consular Agency to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz, between calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808; Internet . The U.S. Embassy in La Paz is open for American Citizen Services Monday through Thursday from 1:30PM to 5:00PM and Fridays from 08:30 to12:30 and from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays. Questions should be directed to the email address USCit.Services.Bolivia@gmail.com or consularlapaz@state.gov .

There are two consular agencies in Bolivia, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.

Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477, 351-3479, or 351-3480; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Mondays from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 2:00PM to 5:00PM and on Tuesday through Friday from 09:00 to 12:30, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.

Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, room 601; telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 425 -6714. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 4, 2006 to update Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Marriage, Special Circumstances and web links.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 24 Jan 2020
Source: Fernando Eid (@fernandoeidok) via Twitter [in Spanish, trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

The 1st case of [a] hantavirus [infection] was confirmed in our country [this year in 2020]. The affected individual is an adolescent who contracted the disease in the tropical area of Cochabamba [department].  [Byline: Fernando Eid]
============================
[El Dia has a video clip available on the above Twitter URL with additional information (in Spanish, trans. ProMED Mod.TY):

The affected individual is a 15-year-old boy who was just released from the hospital ICU. He had a febrile disease. He had been in the forested area in tropical Cochabamba. He is believed to have acquired his infection from virus in faeces of the long-tailed rat. There have been10 cases of hantavirus infections in Cochabamba with one death [over what period of time? - ProMED Mod.TY]].
======================
[Unfortunately, the specific circumstances under which this youth or the previous 2019 cases acquired their infections is not mentioned. Presumably they were in contact with excreta from infected rodent hosts. Infected rodents shed the virus in faeces, urine, and saliva. Sporadic cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome occur in the Bolivian tropics, including Cochabamba department.

The specific hantavirus involved in these or previous cases in 2013 or those in 2012, in Bolivia, is not given. In the lowland Amazon basin of Bolivia, the hantaviruses that are likely to be in tropical Cochabamba department and might be involved in these hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases are Laguna Negra viruses with its rodent hosts, _Calomys laucha_, the small vesper mouse (<https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdtimm/4367939127/in/photolist-otqNuS-EwTizo-7DYQ8i-278Fjfq-owyXyD-osEZQs>), and _C. callosus_, the large vesper mouse (<http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyscallosus.html>), as well as Rio Mamore virus with _C. laucha_ and _Oligoryzomys microtis_, the small-eared pygmy rice rat (<https://www.reservacostanera.com.ar/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/colilargo-menor-oligoryzomys-flavescens2-JGV-e1298896507790.jpg>). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Cochabamba, Bolivia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/55162>]
Date: Mon 16 Dec 2019 22:14 BOT
Source: Los Tiempos [in Spanish, trans. Mod.TY, edited]

The President of the La Paz Medical Association, Luis Larrea, today [16 Dec 2019] reported a suspicious case of haemorrhagic fever coming from the Yungas area in La Paz department; the patient is being treated in the Agarmont Hospital.

"We have a report that for the moment is awaiting confirmation, of a case of haemorrhagic fever who was in the Hospital del Norte and who this morning was sent to intensive therapy in the Agarmont Hospital because there would have been bleeding into the brain," he said to the ABI [Bolivian Information Agency].

Larrea explained that currently it is considered haemorrhagic fever, a disease that has various other diagnoses, and therefore it is necessary to certify and confirm by laboratory tests what type of disease [aetiology] it is since it could be arenavirus 1 or 2 or also dengue fever.

He indicated that samples were sent to the National Health Laboratories Institute (INLASA) and later [tests] will be done at the National Center for Tropical Diseases (CENETROP) and the official results will be known in 10 days.

Larrea further explained that reports from the Director of the Departmental Health Service (SEDES) of La Paz are awaited, as well as from hospitals of the government headquarters, in order to implement some preventive measures and prevent the spread of this disease.

The physician indicated that the patient, without specifying gender, went to different hospital centres in search of medical attention, arriving at the Hospital del Norte in the city of El Alto, where necessary attention was provided. He said that in the coming hours the laboratory tests will confirm or discard if this is a case of haemorrhagic fever.

He pointed out that, if this case is confirmed, firstly, preventive measures must be taken for both the patient and the staff working at Hospital del Norte.

In addition, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will be asked for a report on the work it has done with experts on this disease in recent years, and also the head of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health [will be asked].
=====================
[There is little information about this case, other than that the person apparently acquired the infection in Yungas, a lowland tropical area northeast of La Paz city. The possible circumstances under which the infection occurred are not stated.

If this case turns out to be Bolivian haemorrhagic fever (BHF), it will not be the 1st case in the La Paz department this year (2019). Earlier this year, a small outbreak of 3 cases of BHF was reported at a hospital in La Paz department, Bolivia.

BHF is caused by Machupo virus (Arenaviridae, Tacaribe complex, _Mammarenavirus_). The disease was first described in 1959 in rural areas of Beni Department, eastern Bolivia, and the virus itself was first identified in 1963. The rodent host of BHF virus is the large vesper mouse (_Calomys callosus_), which enters homes in endemic areas and contaminates the environment and food materials with the virus in its excrement.

An image of _C. callosus_, the large vesper mouse and chronically infected reservoir host of Machupo virus, can be seen at

[Maps of Bolivia:
Date: Tue 3 Dec 2019
Source: Cordoba Epidemiology Report and Los Tiempos news article [in Spanish, trans., edited]
<http://www.reporteepidemiologico.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/REC-2264.pdf>

Los Tiempos, Bolivia, 2 Dec 2019 Confirmation of the 1st case of the year (2019) of human rabies in Cochabamba After confirming the death of rabies of a 7-year-old girl in the southern area of Cochabamba, the Departmental Health Service (SEDES) and the Zoonosis Unit of the Mayor's Office intensified prevention actions to prevent the proliferation of the virus. This would be the 1st case confirmed so far this year [2019].

The head of the Epidemiology Unit of SEDES, Arturo Fernando Quiaones Lapez, reported that in the last rabies vaccination campaign for dogs more 1000 doses were given. "We suspected rabies in the case of this minor. She tested positive by laboratory both in cerebrospinal fluid as well as in brain tissue," according to lab results obtained on 2 Dec 2019. The victim died on 26 Nov 2019 after being hospitalized in intensive care of the Children's Hospital for 2 days with signs of rabies," said Dr Manuel Ascencio Villarroel.

The patient's relatives reported the girl had contact with a puppy which died a month ago. The dog did not receive rabies vaccines and belonged to someone the family knows. Quiñones mentioned the family members of the girl and the owners of the animal are receiving preventive treatment. Meanwhile, the head of Zoonosis of the Mayor's Office, Javier Humberto Rodraguez Herrera, stated on 2 Dec 2019 a "massive focus blockade" will be held with the participation of 8 health centers to prevent the circulation of the virus in the area.

He commented that, to date, 11 cases of canine rabies have been recorded in the municipality. In more than 11 months of 2019, SEDES identified 25 positive cases of canine rabies, the majority in the metropolitan region. Quiaones asked the population to report the death of their pets with signs of rabies at health centers for follow-up to fight the disease. Meanwhile, from the City Hall, the owners of dogs were urged to have their dogs vaccinated. Javier Rodra­guez added another risk factor is when animals are collected from the street and they are not vaccinated.
===================
[The rabies virus attacks the nervous system in animals.  When a rabid animal bites a human being, it can transfer the virus, contained in saliva, to that individual. "After inoculation, rabies virus may enter the peripheral nervous system directly and migrates to the brain or may replicate in muscle tissue, remaining sequestered at or near the entry site during incubation, prior to central nervous system invasion and replication. It then spreads centrifugally to numerous other organs. The case-fatality ratio approaches unity [100%], but exact pathogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. "Susceptibility to lethal infection is related to the animal species, viral variant, inoculum concentration, location and severity of exposure, and host immune status.

Both virus-neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity are important in host defense. "Early diagnosis is difficult. Rabies should be suspected in human cases of unexplained viral encephalitis with a history of animal bite. Unvaccinated persons are often negative for virus-neutralizing antibodies until late in the course of disease. Virus isolation from saliva, positive immunofluorescent skin biopsies or virus neutralizing antibody (from cerebrospinal fluid, or serum of a non-vaccinated patient), establish a diagnosis. "Five general stages of rabies are recognized in humans: incubation, prodrome, acute neurologic period, coma, and death (or, very rarely, recovery).

No specific anti-rabies agents are useful once clinical signs or symptoms develop. The incubation period in rabies, usually 30 to 90 days but ranging from as few as 5 days to longer than 2 years after initial exposure, is more variable than in any other acute infection. Incubation periods may be somewhat shorter in children and in individuals bitten close to the central nervous system (such as the head).

Clinical symptoms are first noted during the prodromal period, which usually lasts from 2 to 10 days. These symptoms are often nonspecific (general malaise, fever, and fatigue) or suggest involvement of the respiratory system (sore throat, cough, and dyspnoea), gastrointestinal system (anorexia, dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea), or central nervous systems (headache, vertigo, anxiety, apprehension, irritability, and nervousness).

More remarkable abnormalities (agitation, photophobia, priapism, increased libido, insomnia, nightmares, and depression) may also occur, suggesting encephalitis, psychiatric disturbances, or brain conditions. Pain or paraesthesia at the site of virus inoculation, combined with a history of recent animal bite, should suggest a consideration of rabies. "The acute neurologic period begins with objective signs of central nervous system dysfunction.

The disease may be classified as furious rabies if hyperactivity (that is, hydrophobia) predominates and as dumb rabies if paralysis dominates the clinical picture. Fever, paraesthesia, nuchal rigidity, muscle fasciculations, focal and generalized convulsions, hyperventilation, and hypersalivation may occur in both forms of the disease. "At the end of the acute neurologic phase, periods of rapid, irregular breathing may begin; paralysis and coma soon follow. Respiratory arrest may occur thereafter, unless the patient is receiving ventilatory assistance, which may prolong survival for days, weeks, or longer, with death due to other complications.

"Although life support measures can prolong the clinical course of rabies, rarely will they affect the outcome of disease. The possibility of recovery, however, must be recognized, and when resources permit, every effort should be made to support the patient. At least 7 cases of human "recovery" have been documented." (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8618/>)

A very sad situation which could have been prevented if the animal had been vaccinated. Responsible owners vaccinate their animals. Condolences to the family. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/55162>]
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:57:15 +0200 (METDST)
By Tupad POINTU

La Paz, Oct 22, 2019 (AFP) - Bolivia braced for a general strike on Tuesday hours after violence broke out in several cities when the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results that seemed set to hand a controversial victory to long-time incumbent Evo Morales.   Opposition supporters reacted with fury, torching electoral offices in the southwestern cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz.    Incidents were reported in cities across the South American country.   Carlos Mesa, who came a close second to Morales in Sunday's polls -- forcing a run-off, according to preliminary results -- denounced revised results released by election authorities as a "fraud."   "We are not going to recognize those results that are part of a shameful, consumated fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension," said Mesa.

International monitors from the Organization of American States voiced "deep concern" at sudden changes to the election count to show Morales closing in on an outright victory in the first round.   Preliminary results released late Sunday showed neither Morales, 59, nor 66-year-old Mesa with a majority and "clearly indicated a second round," the OAS mission said.   The partial results put Morales in the lead with 45 percent of the votes, with Mesa on 38 percent, meaning Morales would have to contest a run-off for the first time.   But results released late Monday, after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.   Mesa, a former president of the country between 2001-2005, accused Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to tweak delayed results and avoid a run-off.

- Opposition call general strike -
The call for a general strike was issued by Fernando Camacho, head of an influential civil society organization in Bolivia's biggest city, Santa Cruz, where transport and businesses were expected to shut down from noon.   "Tomorrow we start at 12:00 to block this country," Camacho told opposition demonstrators late Monday, before holding talks with leaders from other regions.   Long lines formed at gas stations amid fears of shortages.   Riot-police dispersed a crowd who tried to storm the electoral offices in the Andean city of Oruro, south of La Paz.    Clashes were also reported in Tarija in the south, Cochabamba in the center and Cobija in the north.

- 'Subverting democracy' -
The United States' top diplomat for Latin America said the Electoral Tribunal was attempting "to subvert Bolivia's democracy by delaying the vote count and taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia's elections."   "We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process," the official, Michael Kozak, said on Twitter.   The OAS observer mission in the country expressed "surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls," it said in a statement.   It urged the election authority to "firmly defend the will of the Bolivian people" and called for calm on the streets.   "It is extremely important that calm is maintained and any form of violence is avoided in this delicate situation."

- Longest serving president -
Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term.   He obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president even though the constitution allows only two consecutive terms.   The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.   He has led the country since taking office in 2006, when he became its first indigenous president.

A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025.   As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought "dignity" to Bolivia's indigenous population, the largest in Latin America.   He has come under severe criticism this year as wildfires in August and September ravaged Bolivia's forests and grasslands, with activists saying his policies encouraged the use of blazes to clear farmland.
Date: Wed 7 Aug 2019
Source: El Deber [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

Soldier LC, who completed his military service in the Bolivian Condors School (ESCONBOL) in Sanadita, died of [a] hantavirus [infection], according to laboratory results issued this [Wed 31 Jul 2019] by the National Center for Tropical Diseases (CENETROP) of the Tarija Department of Health Service (SEDES).

The Chief of Epidemiology, Claudia Montenegro, confirmed that the conscript died from this disease that is transmitted by the long-tailed rat and that he had been infected in a forest locality near to the Campo Largo community, where he was from.

According to Montenegro, this is the 15th hantavirus [infection] case reported in Tarija department in 2019; 5 of them died.

The hantavirus cases correspond to patients from Bermejo and the Chaco region where the rat that carries [the] hantavirus lurks.  [Byline: David Maygua]
=========================
[The case count is now up to 15 in Tarija department; 5 of them, including the case above, died. As noted in earlier posts, cases of hantavirus infections in Tarija department are not new. The department is endemic for hantaviruses, and cases occur there sporadically. Last year (2018), there were 11 cases. The previously reported 2015 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) that occurred in Tarija department were confirmed. As noted in the previous comments, earlier cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported from tropical, lowland areas of Bolivia, including 7 cases in Tarija during 2014. The specific hantaviruses involved in these or previous cases in Bolivia were not given.

In the lowland Amazon Basin of Bolivia, the rodent hosts of the hantavirus that might be involved in these hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) cases, with their images, include the following:
- Laguna Negra virus (small vesper mouse, _Calomys laucha_ <http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyslaucha.html> and large vesper mouse, _C. callosus_
- Bermejo (Chaco rice rat, _Oligoryzomys chacoensis_
- Oran (long- tailed pygmy rice rat, _O. longicaudatus_

Since previous cases in Tarija department have occurred in Bermejo, perhaps Bermejo hantavirus was involved.

Dr Jan Clement commented earlier that there is a need to be able to differentiate Seoul orthohantavirus (SEOV) as a causative agent, but that is hampered by the fact that most current commercial ELISA or WB (Western Blot) formats no longer contain a SEOV antigen, so that a preliminary presumption of a hantavirus infection can even be missed in non-research laboratories (Clement J, LeDuc JW, Lloyd G, et al. Wild rats, laboratory rats, pet rats: global Seoul hantavirus disease revisited. Viruses. 2019; 11(7): 652; pii: E652; <https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/11/7/652/htm>; and Reynes JM, Carli D, Bour JB et al. Seoul virus infection in humans, France, 2014-2016. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017; 23(6): 973-7; <https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/6/16-0927_article>.

SEOV is widely distributed around the world in the brown rat and is likely found in Tarija department. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Bolivia:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:07:04 +0100 (MET)

Wuhan, China, Jan 27, 2020 (AFP) - China's central government said on Monday that the nationwide total of confirmed infections from a deadly respiratory virus had risen to 2,744, with 769 new cases coming to light.   However, it said no new deaths were confirmed outside of Hubei province, which had earlier reported 24 new fatalities to bring the national total to 80 dead.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 22:16:28 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Chinese authorities have ordered the extension of a public holiday in an effort to contain an epidemic that has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 worldwide, state-run media reported.   A working group chaired by Premier Li Keqiang to tackle the outbreak decided on Sunday "to reduce population flows" by extending the Spring Festival holiday which had been scheduled to end on January 30, state news agency Xinhua said.   It was not immediately clear how long the extension is.

The group also ordered changes to "the starting dates of schools" and "people to work from home by working online."   "The meeting stressed that the country is at a crucial time in the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, urging Party committees and governments at all levels to take more 'decisive, powerful and orderly, scientific and well-planned' measures to effective curb the spread," Xinhua reported.   In a bid to slow the spread of the respiratory virus, the government had previously locked down hard-hit Hubei, a province in central China that is at the outbreak's epicentre, in an unprecedented operation affecting tens of millions of people.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.   Originating in Hubei's capital of Wuhan, the virus has spread throughout China and across the world -- with cases confirmed in around a dozen countries including as far away as the United States.   Several countries were making arrangements to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, where an eery calm pervades as new restrictions prohibit most road traffic in the metropolis of 11 million.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 21:47:53 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - US health authorities said Sunday there are now five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and more are expected.   Nancy Messonnier, head of the respiratory disease section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said around 100 people in 26 states are being investigated for the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Of the confirmed cases, all five people had travelled to Wuhan, Messonier said during a conference call with reporters.   "Every case we have had in the United States is someone who has had direct contact in Wuhan," she said.   Messonier said there are two cases in California and one each in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state. Until now the toll was three.   While Chinese officials have launched an extraordinary emergency response, Messonier insisted that the health risk for Americans in general remains low "at this time."
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:44:57 +0100 (MET)

Lagos, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Nigerian health authorities have announced stepped-up emergency measures to tackle a rise in Lassa fever cases after 29 people died this month.   "As at 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states," the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a statement Saturday.   A national emergency operations centre had been activated to coordinate the response "to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases" across the country.

Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly.   The virus is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine. It starts with fever and can, in worst case scenarios, lead to severe bleeding and organ failure.   Nigeria declared an outbreak of Lassa fever a year ago and around 170 people died from the virus in 2019.

The number of cases usually climbs in January due to weather conditions during the dry season.    Almost 90 percent of the recent confirmed cases have been in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states in southern Nigeria, but their have also been deaths in the north.

The NCDC said that compared to the same period last year the fatality rate had dropped from 23.4 percent to 14.8 percent.    It encouraged Nigerians to "practise good hygiene and take measures to protect themselves and their families".   Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with a population of some 200 million, has five laboratories with the capability to diagnose Lassa fever.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:18:19 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Two Chinese provinces and three cities have ordered citizens to wear face masks in public, to help control the spread of a deadly virus.   The measure is required in the provinces of Guangdong in the south and Jiangxi in the centre, plus the eastern city of Nanjing, Ma'anshan city in Anhui province, and Xinyang city in Henan, according to local authorities.   China's industry and information technology ministry has said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply" after demand for masks skyrocketed.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 04:03:51 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong's Disneyland announced it was shutting its doors on Sunday until further notice over the deadly virus outbreak in central China, a day after city authorities classified the crisis as an emergency.   "As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, we are temporarily closing Hong Kong Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members," the park said in a statement.
Date: 26 Jan 2020
Source: MENAFN [edited]

Two more polio cases have surfaced from Landikotal tehsil in Khyber tribal district, after which the number of reported cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reached 4 this year [2020].

According to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), a 2-year-old [male child] from Nekikhel and another child from Torwela have been diagnosed with polio. The samples of these 2 children were sent for laboratory tests in 2019, so these cases will be counted in the tally of 2019, which stands at 141 now.

The 2 cases in Landiktoal were reported 2 days after the emergence of 3 new polio cases in Qambar, Dadu and Sajawal districts of Sindh. Among them, 2 children contracted the crippling disease in 2019, but the cases were confirmed on Friday [24 Jan 2020].

On [21 Jan 2020], the 1st case of polio in Pakistan in 2020 surfaced in Lakki Marwat, the district with the highest number of cases in 2019.

The year 2019 was worse for Pakistan in polio eradication efforts, as 141 cases surfaced in Pakistan, including 96 cases in KP. Most cases in KP surfaced in Lakki Marwat, where 32 children were diagnosed with the crippling disease. In 2018, only 12 cases were reported, while in 2017, 8 cases were reported.

Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only 2 countries in the world which have not fully eradicated polio. The main cause behind the emergence of so many polio cases is refusal of parents to cooperate with the vaccination teams. According to media reports citing Health Ministry data, over a million parents refused to cooperate with vaccination teams in 2019. Most of the refusal cases were reported in April last year [2019] when rumours spread in Peshawar that many children had fainted after consuming vaccination drops. A total of 1 089 087 parents refused to give vaccination drops to their children in 2019.

The emergence of so many polio cases in Pakistan, particularly in KP, has brought the federal and provincial governments under pressure over their performance and strategy to control the spread of disease.

Experts believe that polio vaccination efforts cannot succeed completely until the refusing parents are convinced to cooperate with vaccination teams.
==================
[The End Polio Pakistan website has not added all of the media reported cases as yet, so it's a bit difficult to follow at times and know which cases were 2019 onset and which were 2020 onset. The above media report clearly states 2019 onset and puts the tally for 2019 as 141 cases, but the media reports from Friday's [24 Jan 2020] report is less clear (see Poliomyelitis update (10): global, Pakistan (BA, SD) http://promedmail.org/post/20200124.6911971).

A good map of Pakistan showing districts and provinces can be found at:
Date: Fri 24 Jan 2020
Source: SciTechDaily [abridged, edited]

Citation: Amman BR, Bird BH, Bakarr IA, et al. Isolation of Angola-like Marburg virus from Egyptian rousette bats from West Africa. Nat Commun. 2020; 11:510.  <https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14327-8>

Scientists have detected Marburg virus in fruit bats in Sierra Leone, marking the 1st time the deadly virus has been found in West Africa. A total of 11 Egyptian rousette fruit bats tested positive for active Marburg virus infection. Research teams caught the bats separately in 3 health districts.

The presence of Marburg virus, a close relative to Ebola virus that also causes hemorrhagic disease in people, was detected in advance of any reported cases of human illness in Sierra Leone. However, the virus's presence in bats means people who live nearby could be at risk for becoming infected. No outbreaks have been reported to date.

The findings, based on PCR, antibody, and virus isolation data, were officially published today [24 Jan 2020] in the journal Nature Communications. Preliminary findings were announced earlier in December 2018 to ensure rapid notification to the citizens of Sierra Leone and the international health community.

The paper highlights the value of collaborating with government and key stakeholders across human, animal, and environmental sectors to engage at-risk communities about the discovery, address health concerns, and communicate risk-reduction strategies before recognized spillovers occur.

Marburg virus was detected by projects led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USAID-funded PREDICT project led by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Njala University, Sierra Leone; and the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone.

"Finding Marburg virus in bats in Sierra Leone before any known cases in people is a huge success, as public health officials and doctors can now include Marburg virus among the possible causes when diagnosing hemorrhagic fever cases in the region," said Tracey Goldstein, co-principal investigator and pathogen detection lead for the PREDICT project from the UC Davis One Health Institute.

To date, there have been 12 known outbreaks of Marburg virus, with the most recent in Uganda in 2017. The largest and deadliest outbreak occurred in Angola in 2005 when 227 people died. Five of the new strains identified among the Marburg-positive bats in Sierra Leone were genetically similar to the strain that caused the outbreak in Angola. This is the 1st time scientists have detected these Angolan-like strains in bats.

The virus-positive bats were all Egyptian rousette bats, the known reservoir for Marburg virus, which primarily feed on fruit. Infected bats shed the virus in their saliva, urine, and feces. Egyptian rousette bats are known to test-bite fruits, urinate, and defecate where they eat, potentially contaminating fruit or other food sources consumed by other animals or people, particularly children. These bats sometimes serve as a food source for local populations as well. People may be exposed to Marburg virus through bat bites as they catch the bats.

Following the announcement of the preliminary findings by the government of Sierra Leone, the PREDICT team worked with government partners, universities, and other key stakeholders to develop and implement evidence-based public health messaging across national, district, and local community levels in Sierra Leone.  "Over a year ago, we worked with our Sierra Leone government colleagues to inform people across the country as fast as possible of this new health risk and remind people not to harm or come in contact with bats," said Brian Bird from the UC Davis One Health Institute and global lead for Sierra Leone and Multi-Country Ebola operations for PREDICT-USAID. "I'm very proud of that work and our teams now that this full report is available."
----------------------------------------------
Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts
<promed@promedmail.org>
and
Mary Marshall
===========================
[The initial report of this finding, prior to this publication, was posted by ProMED-mail (Marburg virus disease - Sierra Leone (02): bats, additional information http://promedmail.org/post/20181223.6221436) when the virus was detected for the 1st time in fruit bats in Sierra Leone.

According to the CDC (<https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/marburg/index.html>), Marburg virus was 1st recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). A total of 31 people became ill, initially laboratory workers followed by several medical personnel and family members who had cared for them; 7 deaths were reported. The 1st people infected had been exposed to imported African green monkeys or their tissues while conducting research. One additional case was diagnosed retrospectively.

The reservoir host of Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, _Rousettus aegyptiacus_. Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) can become infected with Marburg virus, and may develop serious disease with high mortality.

Ebola virus is closely related to Marburg virus. "Ebola viral RNA fragments were found in an oral swab from a greater long-fingered bat (_Miniopterus inflatus_), captured in 2016 in Liberia's Sanniquellie-Mahn district, which borders Guinea. The bat, which lives in many parts of Africa, roosts in caves and feeds on insects. Scientists had previously found 2 other Ebola species in a related insect-eating bat, _M. schreibersii_. However, most other evidence has pointed to fruit bats as the carriers of Ebola Zaire, Epstein says [J Epstein, veterinary epidemiologist at EcoHealth Alliance in New York City and a member of the PREDICT consortium]. "What it really says to me is that this is a virus that has multiple hosts, and it might be regionally dependent as to which species carries it."

Supporting the variety of bat hosts for Ebola, the bat implicated in the initiation of the West African Ebola virus outbreak in December 2013 was _Mops condylurus_, long-tailed insect-eating bats, that were previously suspected in an outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola virus, which is related to the Zaire strain. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 11:49:16 +0100 (MET)
By Su Xinqi, Jerome TAYLOR

Hong Kong, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong on Saturday declared a new coronavirus outbreak as an "emergency" -- the city's highest warning tier -- as authorities ramped up measures to reduce the risk of further infections.   The announcement came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration's response to the crisis.

Of the five people who have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong so far, four arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland.   That led to calls from some medical experts and politicians to limit, or even halt, arrivals from China, the epicentre of the outbreak with 41 people dead.

Lam held emergency meetings with health officials on Saturday morning after returning from Davos.   "Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency," she told reporters.   Schools and universities, which are currently on a Lunar New Year break, would remain closed until 17 February, Lam said.   All mainland arrivals to Hong Kong will now need to sign health declaration forms, she added, while public events including a new year gala and next month's marathon, would also be called off.    "We haven't seen serious and widespread infections (in Hong Kong), but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic," Lam said.

- Tragic past -
Hong Kong has a recent experience of deadly viral outbreaks.    Nearly 300 people were killed by SARS in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.   The city's ability to combat the crisis was hampered by moves in mainland China to cover up and play down the outbreak, leaving a lasting legacy of distrust among many Hong Kongers.   Animosity towards the mainland has intensified in recent years as Beijing tightens political control over the semi-autonomous territory.

The outbreak also comes at a sensitive time for Lam, who currently boasts record low approval ratings after seven months of pro-democracy protests.   "We must stand united so that we can prevent and control the disease," she said, in a nod to the political unrest.   The often violent protests have battered Hong Kong's reputation for stability and helped tip it into recession, with the recent virus outbreak compounding the city's economic woes.

Hospitals are already struggling with the winter flu season, but officials are isolating anyone with a history of travel to central China and those exhibiting respiratory tract infections that look similar to the virus.   So far some 300 people have been tested and monitored for the virus. Quarantine centres have been set up in remote holiday parks for anyone found to have come into close contact with people who tested positive.   On Saturday, officials announced a newly built but still-empty public housing block would be used for medical staff on the frontline who did not want to risk returning to their families.
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 06:46:59 +0100 (MET)
By Mahmut Bozarslan and Fulya Ozerkan in Istanbu

Elazig, Turkey, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday.    At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig.   "It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.   President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.   "We stand by our people," Erdogan said on Twitter.

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to frequent earthquakes.    Turkish television showed images of people rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of a building.   Interior, environment and health ministers, who were in the quake zone, said the casulties were in Elazig province and in the neighbouring province of Malatya, which lies to the southwest.

At least 20 people died and 1,015 others were wounded, according to AFAD.   "There is nobody trapped under the rubble in Malatya but in Elazig search and rescue efforts are currently under way to find 30 citizens," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Friday.   Rescue teams were searching for survivors trapped in a five-storey collapsed building in a village some 30 kilometres from Elazig, according to AFP journalists at the scene. One person was pulled alive from the rubble.   Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures.   Sports centres, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.

- 'Everybody is in the street' -
Sivrice -- a town with a population of about 4,000 people -- is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake -- one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river.   The lake is home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.

The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area.   "Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary," said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.   "It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds," added Ferda, 39. "I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside."

The US Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.   "My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.   In Athens, the Greek premier's office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.   "The Turkish president... said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning," his office added.

In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country's largest city Istanbul.    In September last year, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital.   Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.