27-May-15 8:00 AM  CST

Lassa Fever Little Risk to Public CDC States

Lassa fever. Until a few days ago many of us had never heard of the virus, but then again, not many had heard of the Ebola virus until it made its devastating mark. The good news about Lassa fever is that although it is a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola, it is not as aggressive as Ebola, nor is it as contagious.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes Lassa fever as an “acute viral illness”, that is found in West Africa. The virus was first discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died from the disease. The CDC estimates that there are 100,000 to 300,000 documented cases of Lassa fever each year in West Africa, and approximately 5,000 deaths are attributed to the disease. Recently, the virus made news in the United States when a New Jersey man, traveling from Liberia to Morocco and onto JFK airport died from the disease.

The patient, whom authorities have not publicly identified, presented to a New Jersey hospital complaining of fever and tiredness. Because the patient did not divulge his travels to West Africa he was sent home. A few days later the patient presented to the hospital again complaining of the same symptoms, but  this time his condition had worsened and he was hospitalized. Although hospital staff did what they could to control the disease the patient expired a few days after he had been hospitalized.

Although Lassa fever has the ability to become destructive the CDC believes it poses no threats here in the US. As stated earlier, Lassa fever is a form of hemorrhagic fever like the Ebola virus, but is not nearly as contagious as Ebola, nor is it spread from person to person-casual contact. Infection of the virus would require an individual to come into direct contact with an infected person’s blood, mucus membranes, body fluids or sexual intercourse. Lassa fever in West Africa is spread through contact with the urine or droppings of rats, which are the carriers of the virus. Additionally, rats are often a food source in West Africa, which means the virus has a greater chance of spreading.

Although the CDC has assured the public that Lassa fever is not a threat in the US, many believe this breach in protocol for travelers coming into the US makes the country vulnerable for more deadly disease states, like the Ebola virus. Collectively, it only secures the fact that the borders of our world are indeed becoming smaller by the minute.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2015), “Lassa Fever”, http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/lassa/, retrieved, 27,May 2015

Grady, D., (2015), “Lassa Fever Carries Little Risk to Public, Experts Say, “New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/science/lassa-virus-carries-little-risk-to-public-experts-say.html?ref=health&_r=0

For additional information on this article, please contact:
Sandra Andrews
(717) 360-1159
Source: Sandy Andrews  

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