Man at Minn. Hospital Diagnosed with Rare Viral Disease

Updated: 04/04/2014 2:55 PM
Created: 04/04/2014 1:15 PM
By: Megan Stewart

A man at a Minnesota hospital has been diagnosed with an acute viral disease rarely seen in the U.S.

According to officials from the Minnesota Department of Health, the man traveled to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from West Africa on March 31. Immediately after landing, he was admitted to the hospital for fever and confusion, officials said.

On Thursday, he was officially diagnosed with Lassa fever, officials said. The Lassa virus is carried by rodents in West Africa and is transmitted to humans through contact with urine or droppings of infected rodents, health officials said.

The last known case in the U.S. was in 2010 and was also travel-related. Death is rare in patients who contract Lassa fever, with only 1 percent of all cases resulting in death in areas of West Africa where infection is common.

The rare disease can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with a sick person’s blood or bodily fluids, through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), or through sexual contact, officials said.

State and local health departments are reaching out to people who may have came into contact with the man during his trip home. The man is in stable condition.

The Center for Disease Control believes the risk to airline passengers and the crew is extremely low because the virus is not transmitted through casual contact.

The incubation period for Lassa fever is one to three weeks, officials said. In West Africa, there are about 100,000 to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever, resulting in 5,000 deaths annually.

Most human infections don’t show any symptoms, officials said.

Lassa virus microbes
Photo: Website/CDC

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