How Worried Should We Be About Lassa Fever? : Goats and Soda The tropical virus has killed a man who returned to New Jersey from Liberia this month. But chances that he could have spread the disease are remote.
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How Worried Should We Be About Lassa Fever?

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How Worried Should We Be About Lassa Fever?

How Worried Should We Be About Lassa Fever?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A New Jersey man has died after returning home from West Africa. He contracted a virus while he was traveling, but it was not Ebola. NPR's Richard Harris reports, the CDC is treating the case with caution.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Health officials say the unidentified man had a case of Lassa fever, which can cause internal bleeding and other symptoms that are similar to those of Ebola. Tom Frieden, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says fortunately it's not nearly as deadly as Ebola. Ninety-nine percent of people with Lassa fever survive.

TOM FRIEDEN, BYLINE: It's not that rare a disease in West Africa, where it can be endemic. And in the most affected areas, 1 in 6 hospitalized patients with fever may have Lassa.

HARRIS: The disease occurs in remote areas so it rarely makes its way to the United States, but it did on May 17, when a man returning from Liberia by way of Morocco landed at JFK Airport. He fell ill a few days later and went to a local hospital in New Jersey.

FRIEDEN: According to the hospital, he was asked whether he had been in West Africa and said no.

HARRIS: So Dr. Frieden says he was sent home, but a few days later, he returned to the hospital feeling worse. At that point, doctors learned the man had traveled to Liberia, and they suspected he might have Lassa fever, so they sent him to an isolation facility.

FRIEDEN: That was a hospital equipped to assess patients who might have Ebola.

HARRIS: By Monday morning, the CDC had run tests to confirm that the man had Lassa fever, not Ebola. And Monday night, he died of the disease. The CDC is now helping state and local health officials track people who may have come into contact with the man's blood or secretions.

FRIEDEN: We think that the likelihood that anyone could have become infected is low at this point, but it's not zero.

HARRIS: So health officials will keep an eye on people who came in contact with the man for 21 days, as a precaution. Richard Harris, NPR News.

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