One Lassa fever case confirmed in South Africa

A case of Lassa fever has been confirmed in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal, said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) Friday.

The NICD said they diagnosed a man, who used to travel to Nigeria, with Lassa fever Thursday after tests and the man later died in the hospital.

“The man had extensive travel history in Nigeria before returning to South Africa. He fell ill after entering South Africa and was hospitalized in a Pietermaritzburg hospital. The diagnosis of Lassa fever was confirmed through laboratory testing conducted at the NICD. Sadly, the man succumbed to the infection. Currently, efforts are underway to trace and monitor all possible contacts. No secondary cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed at the time of this report,” said NICD Executive Director Adrian Puren, who stressed that person-to-person transmission of Lassa fever is not common.

“In 2007 a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in South Africa. The case involved a Nigerian citizen with extensive travel history in rural parts of Nigeria before falling ill and he received medical treatment in South Africa. No secondary cases of Lassa fever were reported in this instance. Recently, in February 2022, an imported case of Lassa fever with secondary cases were identified in the United Kingdom.” Puren said.

The Lassa virus, which can cause an acute viral hemorrhagic illness called Lassa fever, is usually transmitted through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces of infected rats present in a number of West African countries where the disease is endemic. The virus can also spread through infected bodily fluids.