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Lassa fever is a life-threatening viral infection that is generally acquired by contact with the excreta of infected rodents, but may also be transmitted person-to-person. Outbreaks have been reported from the Central African Republic, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Blood tests indicate that the disease probably occurs in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali and Senegal as well. The incubation period ranges from 1-3 weeks. Initial symptoms may include fever, malaise, headache, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle aches. The presence of an extremely sore throat, with white patches on the tonsils, may help distinguish Lassa fever from other infectious diseases. In severe cases, Lassa fever may lead to dangerously low blood pressure, excessive bleeding, fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion), seizures, or inflammation of the brain (encephalopathy). The treatment is intravenous ribavirin, as well as aggressive supportive measures. In general, the risk to travelers is small. However, health care providers caring for patients with Lassa fever may be at risk and should follow appropriate measures, which include strict respiratory and body fluid precautions.
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
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