Health professionals from the New Jersey Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed that a U.S. traveler returning from Liberia died from Lassa fever.
The patient’s travel itinerary went from Liberia to Morocco to New York's Kennedy International Airport. When departing from Liberia on May 17, the patient did not report any Lassa fever symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea or bleeding. He also did not report any symptoms while on the flight. When his temperature was taken at U.S. customs, he did not have a fever.
On May 18, the traveler sought help at a hospital located in New Jersey, where he reported having a fever, sore throat and exhaustion. The hospital staff reports that they asked him about his travel history, and he did not include information about traveling to West Africa. The traveler was sent home.
On May 21, the traveler returned to the hospital a second time, stating his symptoms had worsened. He was sent to a second hospital, where he received treatments for a viral hemorrhagic fever. He was quarantined and soon died.
Samples that the CDC tested only confirmed Lassa fever; the samples tested negative for Ebola and similar viral hemorrhagic fevers.
Lassa fever is a common viral disease in West Africa. The illness is hardly ever seen within the U.S. As of today, there has never been a documented case of Lassa fever transmitting between people in the U.S. In fact, the case in New Jersey is only the sixth known case of Lassa fever within the U.S. since 1969, though this figure does not include convalescent patients.