Two people who recently returned to the UK from Western Africa have been diagnosed with Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic disease similar to Ebola, London said Wednesday.
According to the government, the cases were discovered within the same family in the east of England, which added that a third suspected case is currently being investigated.
The sickness manifests itself through fever, weakness, headaches, and vomiting. Additionally, it can result in bleeding from the mouth, gastrointestinal system, or vagina and can eventually result in death, albeit its mortality rate is substantially lower than that of Ebola.
Around a quarter of individuals who survive the disease may get some degree of hearing loss, and hearing is restored in around half of these cases after several months.
Lassa fever, which is endemic to several West African countries, is typically transmitted by contact with contaminated food or household items polluted with urine or infected rodents' feces. It can also be transferred by contact with infected bodily fluids.
The High Consequence Infectious Disease Network in the United Kingdom is responsible for the continued care of infected individuals. According to British media reports, one of the patients has subsequently recovered. The second confirmed case of Lassa fever and one with a probable case of Lassa fever remain hospitalized.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) considers that the disease poses little risk to the UK.
"Cases of Lassa fever are uncommon in the United Kingdom, and it is not easily shared between people. The risk to the general public is quite low. We are contacting individuals who had close contact with the cases prior to their illness being confirmed in order to provide appropriate assessment, support, and guidance," stated Dr. Susan Hopkins, UKHSA's Chief Medical Advisor.
Lassa fever was last diagnosed in the UK more than a decade ago - in 2009 when two cases were confirmed. Since 1980, the country has documented eight cases, and they were all imported.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of cases of Lassa fever are reported in West Africa. Outside the region, imported cases are rarely reported.
According to the UK government, they are virtually exclusively found in persons who work in high-risk environments in endemic areas.