Three British nationals have been brought back to the UK from Sierra Leone for medical assessment after coming into close contact with two people diagnosed with Lassa fever.
One of the two Dutch nationals who contracted the virus, whose symptoms are similar to Ebola, while working in the west African country has died.
Public Health England (PHE) said three British people who had stayed in Sierra Leone and had close contact with the Dutch pair had been repatriated to be medically assessed and treated, if required. The agency has also got in touch with 15 other British nationals who had contact with the pair to monitor them.
Lassa fever is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, acute viral illness. It is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with approximately 5,000 deaths. Surveillance for Lassa fever is not standardized; therefore, these estimates are crude. In some areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is known that 10-16% of people admitted to hospitals annually have Lassa fever, demonstrating the serious impact the disease has on the region.
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