UK Detects Two Cases of Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever

The United Kingdom detected two cases of Lassa fever and a third “probable” cause is under investigation.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Feb. 9 that the cases were within the same family in the East of England and are linked to recent travel to West Africa where the disease is endemic.

Lassa fever is an acute hemorrhagic illness that can cause vaginal bleeding and deafness. While most people make a full recovery, severe illness can occur in some cases.

UKHSA said one of the cases has recovered while the other is receiving a specialist care at the Royal Free London National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust.

The third “probable” case is receiving treatment at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

People usually get infected with the virus that causes Lassa fever through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces of infected rats. The virus can also spread through infected bodily fluids.

UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins said that 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,” Hopkins said.

It is the first time the disease has been detected in Britain since 2009. There have only been eight previous cases in the country since 1980.

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