Two people in East of England test positive for Ebola-like virus after travelling to West Africa
CASES of Lassa Fever have been found in the UK after a family travelled to West Africa.
Two people from the East of England caught the disease, with a third person being monitored by health chiefs.
It is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness, which can lead to internal bleeding and affect multiple organ systems.
People usually contract the virus by being exposed to food or items covered in rat urine or faeces, but it can also be spread through infected bodily fluids.
The virus – in the same family as Ebola, but not as deadly or infectious – has become endemic in a number of West African countries.
Most people with Lassa Fever make a full recovery but some people can get severely ill.
It originated in the town of Lassa, northern Nigeria, which is its’ namesake.
The fever has an incubation period of 21 days and can also be transmitted through bodily fluids.
While the majority of cases are without symptoms, some can include fever, physical fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains or sore throat.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA said: “We can confirm that two cases of Lassa Fever have been identified in England, and a further probable case is under investigation.
“The cases are within the same family and are linked to recent travel to West Africa.
“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 three, there have been eight cases Lassa Fever imported to the UK since 1980.
The last two were in 2009, with no evidence it spread any further.
Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London, said: “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.”