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Two Cases Of Lassa Fever Have Been Reported In The UK

Two people have been diagnosed with Lassa Fever in England, while another potential case is under investigation, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed. The two cases, within the same family in the East of England, have been linked to recent travel to West Africa, where the virus is endemic in the population.

One of the cases has already recovered, but the other is still being treated at a specialist secure care unit at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Fortunately, most people can fully recover from the diseases, especially if treatment is promptly received.  Cases of Lassa Fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people.

The overall risk to the public is very low. We are contacting the individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to provide appropriate assessment, support, and advice. Lassa Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus. Around 80 percent of people infected with the Lassa virus have no symptoms, but some can develop a severe disease involving tiredness, fever, and weakness, followed by a headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, and abdominal pain.

According to the CDC, between 100,000 to 300,000 infections occur each year, with approximately 5,000 deaths. Humans typically become infected with the virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces of infected Mastomys rats (Mastomys natalensis) found in sub-Saharan Africa.

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