Rare viral haemorrhagic disease similar to Ebola surface in the East of England.
Two people in the UK have been diagnosed with Lassa fever, a rare viral haemorrhagic disease similar to Ebola. A further ‘probable’ case is currently being investigated.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus. People usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected rats. The virus can also be spread through infected bodily fluids.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has shared that the identified cases are within the same family in the east of England and are linked to recent travel to West Africa. Most people with the Lassa Fever will make a full recovery, the UKHSA has stated.
Severe illness does sometimes occur in certain individuals. One of the cases has recovered, while the other will receive care in the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA commented: “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.
“The UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be reinforced.”
Prior to these two cases, there have been eight cases of Lassa fever imported to the UK since 1980. The last two cases occurred in 2009.
Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London, shared: “The Royal Free Hospital is a specialist centre for treating patients with viral haemorrhagic fevers, including Lassa fever.”
“Our secure unit is run by a highly-trained and experienced team of doctors, nurses, therapists and laboratory staff and is designed to ensure our staff can safely treat patients with these kind of infections,” he added.