Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

patient has died in England after testing positive for Lassa fever.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed the death in Bedfordshire on Friday after revealing three people in Britain had become infected with the Ebola-like virus on Thursday.

A Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: “We confirm the sad death of a patient at our trust, who had confirmed Lassa fever. We send our deepest condolences to their family at this difficult time.

“We will continue to support the patient’s family and our staff and are working closely with colleagues from the UK Health Security Agency to undertake a robust contact tracing exercise.”

The three cases are understood to be within the same family in the east of England and are linked to recent travel to west Africa.

Health experts have stressed that the overall risk to the public is low, and the UKHSA said there was no evidence of onward transmission from the three cases.

On Thursday, health officials said one of the cases had recovered, while the other was receiving specialist care at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Bedford Hospital

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Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus and can be spread 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.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, 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.”

The health authority said that people living areas of west Africa with high populations of rodents are most at risk of Lassa fever and imported cases rarely occur elsewhere.

Cases which do occur elsewhere are “almost exclusively in people who work in endemic areas in high-risk occupations such as medical or other aid workers”, it said.

Incidents in the UK are very rare. Prior to the three recent cases, eight cases had been identified in the UK since 1980, with the last two occurring in 2009.

In November 2019, three British nationals were brought back to the UK from Sierra Leone for medical assessment after coming into close contact with two people diagnosed with Lassa fever.

One of the two Dutch nationals, who contracted the virus while working in the West African nation, died.

At the time, Public Health England also contacted another 15 British nationals who had contact with the Dutch Lassa fever cases to monitor them.

Most people with Lassa fever, whose symptoms are similar to Ebola, will make a full recovery – although severe illness can occur.

After starting as a fever with aches and pains, the symptoms can progress to headache, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Severe cases can cause victims to bleed from the mouth and nose.

The virus, like Ebola, can also be spread through contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, but it does not spread easily between humans.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is no epidemiological evidence supporting airborne spread from person to person.

However, no Lassa fever cases were ultimately confirmed.


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