CDC: U.S. Traveler Returning From Liberia Dies of Lassa Fever

Only sixth known case in United States since 1969, but virus is much less deadly than Ebola

TUESDAY, May 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A man who returned to the United States after traveling to Liberia in West Africa has died of Lassa fever, federal health officials have reported.

Lassa fever is a viral disease that's common in West Africa but rarely seen in the United States. This is only the sixth known case of Lassa fever in a traveler returning to the United States since 1969, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This latest case of Lassa fever involved a man who traveled from Liberia to Morocco and then on to JFK International Airport in New York City on May 17. He did not have any symptoms -- such as diarrhea, vomiting, or bleeding -- when he left Liberia or when he arrived in the United States.

By May 18, the man had a sore throat, fever, and tiredness, so he went to a hospital in New Jersey. However, when asked about his travel history, the man did not reveal that he had been in Liberia. He was sent home the same day, but returned to the hospital on May 21 when his symptoms worsened, according to the CDC. The man was transferred to a treatment center equipped to deal with viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. Tests revealed the man had Lassa fever, but did not have Ebola. The man, who was kept in isolation, died Monday evening, the CDC said.

The CDC is continuing its investigation and working with public health officials to identify people who had contact with the man. Those who had close contact will be monitored for 21 days to see if they develop symptoms of Lassa fever.

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