UK health experts sound alarm after Ebola-like virus carried by rats found in Britain

Nigeria: Lassa fever disease outbreak kills dozens

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The UK Health Security Agency has warned that two people in the East of England have now been diagnosed with Lassa fever, an acute viral illness that can spread through bodily fluids just like Ebola. The two patients were from the same family and had recently returned from a trip to West Africa.

The UKHSA also stated that a third “probable case” is also under investigation and is currently being treated at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

While this potentially deadly disease is endemic in West Africa, it has not been seen in the UK for more than a decade.

Most people who are infected with the Lassa virus usually make a full recovery, however, severe cases of infection can be fatal.

Most people become infected with this virus after being exposed to food or household items contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected rats.

However, Lassa fever, like Ebola, can spread through contact with the bodily fluids like the blood, saliva, urine or semen of infected people.

The UKHSA noted that one of the two confirmed cases has already recovered, while the second is receiving specialist care at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at UKHSA, said: “We can confirm that two cases of Lassa fever have been identified in England, and a further probable case is under investigation.

“The cases are within the same family and are linked to recent travel to West Africa.

“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.”

People who are infected with this disease typically experience fever and flu-like symptoms.

However, more serious side effects include bleeding through the nose, mouth and other parts of the body.

Lassa Fever, which is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness, has been described as a cousin to Ebola.

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Prior to these cases, there have been eight cases of Lassa fever imported to the UK since 1980, with the last two cases occurring in 2009.

There was no evidence of onward transmission from any of these cases.

A spokesman for the UKHSA declined to provide further information on the cases at this time.

They said: “UKHSA is working with the NHS and local authorities to contact individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to assess them as necessary and provide advice.

“This includes healthcare workers that the cases have come into contact with.

“The UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.”

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