Lassa fever detected in KZN in SA man who had travelled to Nigeria
A case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in a man from KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced on Friday.
It said the man, who has since died, had extensive travel history in Nigeria before returning to SA.
“He fell ill after entering SA and was hospitalised in a Pietermaritzburg hospital.”
His diagnosis was confirmed through laboratory testing conducted at the NICD.
“Sadly, the man succumbed to the infection. Efforts are under way to trace and monitor all possible contacts. No secondary cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed at the time of this report,” the NICD said.
It said Lassa fever is a viral infection that is endemic to West African countries and mostly reported in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
Up to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever, with about 5,000 deaths, are recorded annually in the endemic countries, it said. There is no vaccine for Lassa fever.
The natural host of this virus is a rodent species called the multimammate rat, which is commonly found in homes and other areas where a food source can be found.
The rats are persistently infected and shed the virus in their urine and faeces. Humans can come into contact with the virus through direct contact or inhalation in areas infested with the infected rats.
Person-to-person transmission does not occur readily and the virus is not spread through casual contact. Cases of Lassa fever in travellers returning from endemic countries are reported from time to time, the NICD said.
In 2007 a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in SA. The case involved a Nigerian citizen with extensive travel history in rural parts of Nigeria before falling ill, who received medical treatment in SA. No secondary cases of Lassa fever were reported in this instance.
In February this year, an imported case of Lassa fever, with secondary cases, was identified in the UK.
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