This article explores three epidemic episodes in 1950s Bolivia: a typhus outbreak in Oruro in September 1954, a typhoid outbreak in Cochabamba in January 1956, and a polio outbreak along the Bolivia-Argentine border in March 1956. Each case discusses state-imposed quarantine and sanitation measures, using newspaper reports and editorials, letters to health officials, and government publications to document institutional responses to these epidemic episodes and people's reactions. Through press coverage, the article analyzes praise and critiques of government responses to these epidemics to assess what measures public health authorities implemented, how effective they were, and how Bolivians felt about their political and medical leadership during these crises. These case studies evidence that Bolivians did not respond uniformly to government containment policies, and responses varied by region and disease. They also demonstrate that quarantines are effective even if not always popular, and that the public's perception of the measures' efficacy and implementation impact their feelings about state legitimacy. Finally, they show that disease outbreaks create opportunities for citizens to critique government officials and push for improvements to public health.


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pp. 477-500
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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