What is Lassa Fever? Cases of acute virus found in east of England

11 February 2022, 09:58 | Updated: 12 February 2022, 07:56

Two cases of Lassa fever have been discovered in the East of England
Two cases of Lassa fever have been discovered in the East of England. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Three people in the East of England have been diagnosed with the acute viral illness Lassa fever and one has died.

The cases are understood to have been linked to to West Africa.

It said the cases were all within the same family in the East of England. Most people make a full recovery but severe cases can be fatal.

Read more: Patient dies from Lassa fever after family infected with ebola-like virus

One of the confirmed cases has since recovered and another will receive specialist care at the Royal Free hospital in London.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA said earlier: "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. 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.

"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 reinforced."

Prior to these cases, there have been 8 cases of Lassa fever imported to the UK, since 1980. The last two cases occurred in 2009. There was no evidence of onward transmission from any of these cases.

What is Lassa Fever?

Lassa Fever is described as a cousin of Ebola, and the disease is endemic in a number of West African countries.

What are the symptoms?

It causes a fever and flu-like symptoms, but it can cause bleeding through the nose, mouth and other parts of the body in more serious cases.

How do people contract the virus?

People usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected rats.

The virus can also be spread through infected bodily fluids.