In a follow-up to the American medical missionary who died in Cologne, Germany of Lassa fever contracted in Togo, German media are reporting (computer translated) that a funeral home worker who had contact with the deceased has contracted the virus and is currently being treated at a special isolation unit at Frankfurt University Hospital.
The employee tested positive for Lassa fever via a blood test and was admitted. According to virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, “It would be the 1st case of Lassa virus infection acquired in German.”
Six imported Lassa fever cases have been reported in Germany since the mid-1970s.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa. The virus, a member of the virus family Arenaviridae, is a single-stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic, or animal-borne.
Lassa fever is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. While Lassa fever is mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80% of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20% have a severe multisystem disease.
The animal host of Lassa virus is a rodent known as the “multimammate rat” of the genus Mastomys. Humans get infected with Lassa through aerosol or direct contact with excreta from the rodent. Laboratory infections do occur primarily through contaminated needles.
The symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain,
cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea,conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria (protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss,tremors, and encephalitis.
The Lassa virus and was 1st described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria.