Lassa fever causes 3 deaths in Britain
The world hasn’t overcome the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic which took a toll on human lives and now, there is another cause of concern, the Lassa fever which has taken the lives of 3 people in Britain till now.
Last week in Britain cases of new viral infection was detected which has reportedly taken 3 lives. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in a statement on February 11 has confirmed the number of deaths. The health agency said the three cases were within the same family in the East of England and were linked to recent travel to West Africa.
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness and belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses but is much less deadly. It was first identified in 1969, in the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria. Moreover, since 80 percent of the cases are asymptomatic, they mostly remain undiagnosed. In some severe illnesses, patients need to be hospitalized and 15 percent of those hospitalized die.
The UKHSA said close contacts of the patients were being traced with a view to “appropriate assessment, support, and advice”. “The risk to the general public remains very low,” it added.
The UK health agency said most people with Lassa fever will make a full recovery. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals. The cases of Lassa fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people, said Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA, adding that the overall risk to the public is very low.
People usually become infected with the Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces 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.
The WHO said the antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness. There is no evidence to support the role of ribavirin as a post-exposure prophylactic treatment for Lassa fever.
There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever.
Prior to these three cases, there have been eight cases of Lassa fever imported to the UK since 1980. The last two cases occurred in 2009. There was no evidence of onward transmission from any of these cases.
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