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Lassa fever patient dies in England

The Lassa fever virus, often compared to the virus Ebola for the comparable symptoms it causes, has been identified in England, a first since 2009. The three infected people were returning from a trip to West Africa, so these are imported cases. The patients are not contaminated on British soil. The British Health Security Agency reported today that one of the patients sadly died of the infection at Bedfordshire Hospital. Despite this death, health risk for the general population is low. Investigations are carried out to identify contact cases among the healthcare staff who took care of the infected patient and to take the necessary measures to protect them.

Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic fever caused by a virus of the family Arenavirus. The latter is transmitted through food or surfaces contaminated with faeces and urine of the rat of Natal (Mastomys natalensis), its natural reservoir. Every year, it is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 people are infected with the virus Lassa fever, mainly in Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia where it is endemic. There is no vaccine to fight the epidemic in Africa, only an antiviral molecule, ribavirin.

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