A New Jersey man was pronounced dead Monday after contracting Lassa fever from West Africa, officials say.
According to the Associated Press, the man had returned home from Liberia on May 17, landing in New York City’s JFK International Airport.
“The patient had no symptoms during the flight, but a day later went to a New Jersey hospital suffering from a sore throat and lethargy,” say Fox News reports.
According to news reports, the hospital treating the man was in the process of obtaining the needed antidote for Lassa fever, known as ribavirin, at the time of his death.
Lassa fever is said to be a virulent disease that can cause fever, organ failure, vomiting and even bleeding from places like the nose, gums and eyes.
This case of Lassa fever surfaces in the wake of the spread of the infectious Ebola virus. The two are said to carry similar symptoms. However, officials with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that Lassa fever is far less fatal than the Ebola virus.
“Like Ebola, it can spread through contact with blood, feces or vomit of an infected person,” writes Fox News. “In West Africa, Lassa virus is carried by rodents and transmitted to humans through contact with urine or droppings of infected rodents,” writes the news source.
“We expect to see Lassa fever and other infections like this,” says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “Because of Ebola, we’re now better prepared to deal with
According to sources, Lassa fever is generally not spread via person-to-person contact, although hand washing and hygiene may still offer some method of prevention.
The CDC states that Lassa Fever can be contracted in the following way:
“Lassa fever gets transmitted to humans in two different ways. One way is from the urine of the rodent Mastomys natalensis, which is the common rodent called the “multi-man” rat that you find throughout much of Africa, as a matter of fact, but especially in West Africa. This rodent tends to live in houses with humans. It will live there for long periods of time. What usually happens in West Africa the people wake up in the morning, they get a bit of breakfast and then they close their houses up and go off to their day’s activities. Of course when they come back in the evening, it becomes dark at 6:30pm or 7pm and what this means for the rodent is that it has sometimes almost 24 hours of night time activity. During that time the rodent will circulate through the house and deposit urine on surfaces such as the floors, the tables, and even in food if the rodent is able to get into the food and other places even on beds. And we believe that people get infected most frequently when they come into contact with the deposited rodent urine on one of these surfaces and is usually gets transmitted through cuts and scratches on their hands and feet.”