Lassa fever: Two cases of Ebola-like virus that causes vaginal bleeding has been detected

After travelling to West Africa, two people in England tested positive for the Ebola-like virus Lassa Fever.

After a family travelled to West Africa, two cases of Lassa Fever were discovered in the UK. Lassa fever is an Ebola-like virus that can cause vaginal bleeding and deafness. This is the first time the virus has been found in the United Kingdom in more than a decade.

Lassa fever can produce symptoms such as vaginal bleeding and deafness. According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), those sick are members of a family who recently returned from West Africa, where the disease is widespread.

Rats it is!

The infected people are from the east coast of England. A third cousin is suspected of having the condition, but the results of a confirming test are still pending. Lassa fever is usually contracted through contact with food or household objects contaminated with infected rats' urine or faeces. It can also be spread through bodily fluids infected with the virus. The fever has a 21-day incubation period.

This is the first time the disease has been discovered in the United Kingdom since 2009, with only eight previous instances in the country. One of the infected people has recovered, while the other is being treated at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The third person with a possible infection is treated at the NHS Foundation Trust Bedfordshire Hospitals. No indication of onward transmission has been found in any of the instances. Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA's top medical adviser, said:

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.

Not so deadly

The virus has become common in several West African countries; however, it is not as deadly or infectious as Ebola. According to the World Health Organization, 1% of people infected with the Lassa virus die. Around 80% of people have no symptoms, while others have a fever and aches and pains leading to headaches, vomiting, and diarrhoea. In extreme situations, symptoms such as facial swelling, fluid in the lungs, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vaginal or gastrointestinal tract, and low blood pressure are all possible.

Deafness affects around a quarter of those who survive the disease. Hearing returns partially in half of these instances after one to three months. In west Africa, it is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 Lassa fever cases occur each year. Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, an infectious diseases consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said:

People living in endemic areas of West Africa with high populations of rodents are most at risk of Lassa fever. Imported cases rarely occur elsewhere in the world.
Such cases are almost exclusively in people who work in endemic areas in high-risk occupations, such as medical or other aid workers.
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