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After 13 years, the 'rare' Lassa fever returned to England, with two new cases reported

"A further probable case of Lassa fever is under investigation," the UK government said

After 13 years, the rare Lassa fever returned to England, with two new cases reported

On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed that two people in England have been diagnosed with Lassa fever.

The cases are connected to recent travel to West Africa and are from the same East Anglian household.

"Another possible case of Lassa fever is being investigated," according to a government press release.

The UKHSA added that while one of the instances has recovered, the other will be treated by a specialist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

The probable case, on the other hand, is being treated at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

"Cases of Lassa fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people. The overall risk to the public is very low," Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said.

"We are contacting the individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to provide appropriate assessment, support and advice," Hopkins added.

Since 1980, there have been eight occurrences of Lassa fever in the United Kingdom.

Prior to these occurrences, the UK had only had 8 cases of Lassa fever since 1980, with the latest two cases happening in 2009. However, no evidence of forward transmission was found in any of the instances.

What is Lassa fever, exactly?

According to the UKHSA, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic sickness caused by the Lassa virus. They went on to say that individuals get infected with the Lassa virus by consuming food or household goods contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected rats, which can be found in a number of West African nations where the disease is widespread. The virus can also be passed from one person to another by infected bodily fluids.

Lassa fever is most dangerous to people who live in endemic areas of West Africa with large populations of rodents. Imported cases are uncommon in other parts of the world. People who operate in endemic areas in high-risk vocations, such as medical or other relief workers, are almost exclusively affected.

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