Page last updated at 22:26 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Lassa fever man dies in hospital

The 66-year-old-man died at the Royal Free Hospital
The man died at Hampstead's Royal Free Hospital in north-west London

A 66-year-old man being treated in hospital for Lassa fever has died.

The patient, from east London, died following a sudden deterioration in his condition, said a spokesman from Hampstead's Royal Free Hospital.

The man, who has not been identified, had been travelling in Nigeria and was admitted to hospital soon after returning to the UK on 6 January.

Lassa fever was diagnosed on 22 January at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. Next of kin have been informed.

A spokeswoman from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there was no risk of contamination to the public.

Lassa fever is caused by the Lassa virus and is endemic in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and the Central African Republic.

Deafness

Hundreds of thousands of people are infected in these countries each year and isolated cases have been seen in Europe and the US.

Around eight in 10 people infected with Lassa virus develop mild or no symptoms, but in 20% of cases people will have severe illness.


The infection is not easily spread to others and then only by direct contact with bodily fluids

Dr Dilys Morgan, Lassa fever expert

Symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, a cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle pain. A common complication is deafness, but only about 2% of all patients die from the illness.

Dr Dilys Morgan, a Lassa fever expert at the HPA, said: "This is an isolated case. It is important to stress that there is no risk to the general public from this patient.

"Lassa fever is an infection that is found in West Africa and is seen rarely in this country in those who have travelled to parts of the world where it is common.

"The infection is not easily spread to others and then only by direct contact with bodily fluids."

The virus is spread by infected rats through their urine and droppings. There have been 10 confirmed cases of Lassa fever in the UK since 1970.

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