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Am J Public Health. 1996 May;86(5):738-43.

Cuban epidemic neuropathy, 1991 to 1994: history repeats itself a century after the "amblyopia of the blockade".

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Hospital Gustavo Aldereguía, Cienfuegos, Cuba.


The 1991 to 1994 epidemic of neuropathy in Cuba has been one of the more devastating in recent history, affecting more than 50,000 people throughout the entire country with clinical manifestations of optic and peripheral neuropathy. Although the causes are not entirely clear, it seems that a combination of acute nutritional deficiency and the toxic effects of tobacco and possibly other unidentified toxic substances is involved. The epidemic coincided with the acute worsening of the economic situation on the island following political changes in Eastern European countries and a tightening of the US economic embargo. This paper reviews reports of a strikingly similar epidemic known as the "Amblyopia of the Blockade," which occurred in Cuba almost a century ago when the island was undergoing a US naval blockade during the Cuban-Spanish-American war. It discusses the parallelism with the recent epidemic as well as the implications of this historical evidence to clarify further the ultimate causes of these epidemics.

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