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Lassa fever travels to Minnesota from West Africa

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: April 4, 2014 - 12:45 PM

A patient in a Minnesota hospital is confirmed to be carrying Lassa fever, an acute viral disease common in West Africa but rare in the U.S. The man who had traveled from West Africa was hospitalized with fever and confusion. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's study of blood samples confirmed Lassa fever, which is similar to Ebola. The last case of the disease in the United States was in 2010.

Rodents in West Africa carry the Lassa virus and transmit it to humans through contact with urine or droppings. Though rare, it can also be transmitted from person to person through blood or bodily fluids. The virus is not transmitted through casual contact.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the general public is not at risk. But it and the CDC are working with the hospital to notify any health care providers and airline passengers and crew who may have had contact with the patient.

About 100,000 to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever and about 5,000 deaths occur annually in West Africa. Eighty percent of human infections don’t show any symptoms. The Minnesota patient is recovering.
Read more about Lassa fever at www.cdc.gov/vhf/lassa/.

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