Lassa fever death sparks Ebola fears in New Jersey. The man who had recently visited West Africa died of a the rare Lassa fever on Monday. Federal health officials have “stepped up” their on the ground response to the case after the CDC confirmed the presence of the rare disease in the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the West African traveler died of Lassa fever, but the health risks posed to New Jersey residents are “extremely low.” The CDC maintained that the agency is taking “all precautions” during their response to the death.
The identity of the New Jersey West African visitor has not been released to the public by the CDC. The man with the rare Lassa fever reportedly went to the hospital on May 18 complaining of fatigue, fever, and a sore throat. When hospital staffers asked the man about his recent travel history, he did not reportedly reveal that he had recently been to West Africa – he was sent home the same day.
Three days later, the man returned to the same hospital complaining that his symptoms have worsened. He died from Lassa fever shortly after his second trip to the hospital. Lassa fever is typically less deadly than Ebola, according to the CDC. Individuals who are believed to have been in contact with the West African traveler
While Lassa fever is typically less deadly than Ebola, CDC is working with New Jersey health officials to find any potential contacts. Anyone who is considered at risk will be monitored for 21 days – just as anyone with contact to Ebola patients. The federal health agency is also reportedly in the midst of searching for all relatives, hospital workers, and fellow plane passengers who had contact with the Lassa fever victim. The man arrived on a Liberia to Morocco JFK International Airport flight on May 17.
Lassa fever was discovered in 1969 after two missionary nurses traveling in the West African region died from the disease. Lassa fever is “endemic in parts of West Africa.” Approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people are infected with the disease annually. Lassa fever symptoms reportedly begin about one to three weeks after the individual becomes infected. In addition to symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and vomiting, facial swelling, mucosal bleeding, and neurological problems can also occur.
Many people infected with Lassa fever reportedly experience “mild symptoms” of the disease. Approximately 20 percent of those infected can face severe and affect multiple systems, the most common being deafness. Lassa fever is reportedly fatal in 1 percent of cases.
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