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CDC: U.S. Traveler Returning From Africa Has Lassa Fever

The infectious illness is not related to Ebola fever, officials stress

MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A person returning to the United States after visiting West Africa has been confirmed as having Lassa fever and is recovering after being treated at a Minnesota hospital, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

The CDC was quick to stress that Lassa fever, a severe viral illness, is not related to Ebola fever, the deadly viral illness that is currently making headlines due to a widespread outbreak in a handful of West African countries. However, the imported case of Lassa fever "is a reminder that we are all connected by international travel. A disease anywhere can appear anywhere else in the world within hours," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in an agency news release.

According to the CDC, Lassa fever is relatively common in West Africa, but very rare in the United States, with only seven other cases -- all travel-related -- ever reported in the United States. The last case was reported in Pennsylvania in 2010. In West Africa, rodents carry the Lassa virus and transmit it to people through contact with rodent urine or droppings. In rare cases, Lassa virus can be transmitted person-to-person through blood, body fluids, or sexual contact. Up to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever, and 5,000 deaths, occur in West Africa each year, the CDC said.

"Although Lassa fever can produce hemorrhagic symptoms in infected persons, the disease is not related to Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which is responsible for the current outbreak in West Africa," the CDC stressed in its news release.

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