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Lassa fever death in U.S.

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Posted on Jun 02, 2015

Lassa feverThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a death in the U.S. by Lassa fever. The patient traveled from Liberia to Morrocco and landed at JFK International Airport.

Lassa fever is a viral disease common in West Africa. It was discovered in 1969 and named after the Nigerian town where it was first diagnosed in. This is only the sixth occurrence reported in the U.S. since 1969. The disease has never been transmitted in American soil.

Lassa fever is carried by rodents and transmitted through contact with urine or their droppings. It is rare, but it may also be transmitted through direct contact with infected persons’s blood, bodily fluids, the mucous membrane or through sexual contact.

Symptoms begin one to three weeks after exposure. According to the  CDC, about 80 percent of cases are mild and undiagnosed and untreated. Common symptoms are slight fever, general malaise, weakness and headaches. The most common complication from Lassa fever is deafness. Severe cases experience hemorrhagic symptoms and may lead to death as a result to multi-organ failure.

Lassa fever is less likely to be fatal than Ebola, it has a 1 percent death rate. However, the CDC is concerned with the number of people who had contact with the patient. It is estimated that approximately 150 were in contact with the patient but six are at high risk of exposure. All of them are currently monitored by the CDC.

To learn more about Lassa fever including treatment, transmission and prevention, visit the CDC.