Lassa fever causes first death in the UK: Here’s what are its symptoms


The United Kingdom is facing another health risk, Lassa fever majorly linked to travelers from Western African countries. One out of three persons diagnosed on February 11 ring alarm bells with the health authorities there. Although the death rate is at 1 per cent now but in certain individuals like pregnant women in their third trimester, the risks are high.

Moreover, since 80 per cent of the cases are asymptomatic, they mostly remain undiagnosed. In some severe illnesses, patients need to be hospitalized and 15 per cent of those hospitalized die, reveals the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control primary analysis.

What is Lassa fever and what are its symptoms

Lassa fever was first discovered in Lassa, Nigeria in 1969 after two nurses died there. The disease is endemic to West African countries like Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria and was first spread by rats.

A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items that are contaminated by the urine or faeces of an infected rat. In rare cases coming in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or mucous membranes such as eyes, mouth, nose can also spread the infection.

Yet then casual interaction like sitting near someone who is infected, shaking hand or hugging cannot transmit the infection. People so not usually spread the disease before symptoms become prominent that is up to 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. Mild symptoms are fatigue, headache, weakness, fever, etc., and in rare cases difficulty breathing, facial swell up, bleeding, chest pain, shock in abdomen or vomiting.

CDC notes that death occurs in rare cases after two weeks from onset of symptoms, as a result of multi-organ failure. The most common complication is deafness. One-third of those who contracted deafness have reported some forms of deafness. In most cases, the deafness can occur in both mild as well as severe presentations of the fever.

Avoid contracting rats in places where it is endemic and practicing hygiene, i.e. not letting rays enter home, keeping food in rat-proof containers or using rat-traps etc., to save yourself from getting infected.

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