New Jersey Man Dies of Rare Lassa Fever

kim kardashian

After arriving from his trip to Liberia on May 17th, the New Jersey resident began complaining of a sore throat, fever, and lethargy. The CDC said he did not show any symptoms on the flight from Morocco to New York, and when he arrived at JFK the screenings did not show any sign of a fever.

Nonetheless, the man checked himself into a New Jersey hospital the next day where he was asked about his travel history, and he did not mention his recent trip to Liberia. The staff, then, sent him home to recover. A few days passed, and his symptoms worsened. He returned to the hospital and was later transferred to a treatment facility better able to deal with viral fevers.

Lab results of the patient’s blood were brought in Monday morning, which confirmed the presence of the hemorrhagic fever, Lassa, but no Ebola. There is not much information disclosed on the 55-year old man who died in “appropriate isolation” Monday evening in a New Jersey hospital 

CDC officials simply said that he often traveled to Liberia for business purposes; he worked in the mining industry. It was most likely in the mining areas of Liberia where the man might have been in contact with the disease.

A special team of federal disease experts arrived in New Jersey to work with the hospital staff and determine who else might have been in contact with the infected man, including health workers, family, friends and travelers on the flight. These individuals will be closely monitored over a period of three weeks to see if the Lassa fever develops.

What exactly is Lassa fever? Should we expect another Ebola-like crisis? Though the Lassa fever is a viral disease originating from West Africa, health officials have explained that there is nothing to worry about.

Dr. Tina Tan, the state epidemiologist, said, “Given what we know about how Lassa virus spreads to people, we think the risk to the public is extremely low.”

The West African disease is only fatal for 1% of those infected. Unlike the 70% mortality rate of Ebola cases, the vast majority of Lassa cases are mild, but in more severe circumstances, the infected will show hemorrhagic symptoms in addition to fever, vomiting, organ failure and shock. It is not uncommon for patients who survive such conditions to remain deaf. 

Similarly to Ebola, however, it is quite difficult to spread the disease. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed to the fact that in the six other cases diagnosed in travelers from West Africa, not a single person ever spread the illness through contact. It takes much more than that. In fact, the disease is usually transmitted through urine or droppings of infected rodents.

The last reported case of Lassa fever in the U.S. came from Minnesota last year, and prior to that, Pennsylvania confirmed a case in 2010.





Photo: Via: flickr/Mike Blyth

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