'Rare' Lassa fever returns to England after 13 years, 2 new cases identified
"A further probable case of Lassa fever is under investigation," the UK government said.
New Delhi: The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Wednesday (February 9, 2022) confirmed that two people have been diagnosed with Lassa fever in England.
The cases are linked to recent travel to West Africa and are within the same family in the East of England.
"A further probable case of Lassa fever is under investigation," a government press release stated.
While one of the cases has recovered, the other will receive specialist care at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, the UKHSA said.
On the other hand, the probable case is receiving care at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
8 cases of Lassa fever in UK since 1980
Prior to these cases, 8 cases of Lassa fever have been identified in the UK since 1980 with the last two cases occurring in 2009. There, however, was no evidence of onward transmission from any of these cases.
"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," Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said.
"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 added.
What is Lassa fever?
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus, the UKHSA said. They added that people usually become infected with the Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected rats – present in a number of West African countries where the disease is endemic. The virus can also be spread through infected bodily fluids.
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.