Lassa fever – South Africa

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A man from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa was diagnosed with and passed away from lassa fever shortly after his travels in Nigeria.

The man had extensive travel history in Nigeria before returning to South Africa. He fell ill after entering South Africa and was admitted to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg. After laboratory testing, conducted at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, he was diagnosed with lassa fever. Unfortunately, the man passed away due to the infection.

No secondary cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed as of right now.
Cases of Lassa fever in travelers returning from endemic countries have occurred before. In 2007, a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in South Africa and involved a Nigerian citizen with extensive travel history in rural parts of Nigeria before falling ill.

There is no indication as to how the man contracted lassa fever however, the natural host of this virus in endemic countries, such as Nigeria, is a rodent species called the multimammate rat. Humans can come into contact with the virus through direct contact or inhalation of the virus in areas that are infested with the infected rats.Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. Many of those infected by the virus do not develop symptoms but for 1 percent of those infected, death occurs in the first two weeks. The disease is usually initially spread to people via contact with the urine or feces of an infected mouse. Spread can then further continue between people.

There is no vaccine. Prevention requires isolating those who are infected and decreasing contact with mice.

Descriptions of the disease date from the 1950s. The virus was first described in 1969 from a case in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria. Lassa fever is relatively common in West Africa.

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