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Rare African fever case rears head in Minnesota, health officials say

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A man returning from a visit to West Africa has tested positive for Lassa Fever.

The man, who arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on March 31, went to a doctor soon after arriving, complaining of a fever, WCCO reports.

Due to his travel history, his blood samples were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he tested positive for the viral disease on April 3.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lassa fever is endemic in parts of west Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.

The virus was first isolated in 1969 from a nurse in a Nigerian mission hospital. At least two cases of Lassa fever have occurred in the United States, the first in Chicago, the second in New Jersey.

Both individuals who had recently been traveling in endemic areas of Africa, one in Nigeria, the other in Liberia, and succumbed to the fever after returning to the United States.

The virus can be transmitted person-to-person via direct contact with an infected person’s blood, bodily fluids, eyes, mouth and nose. The virus can also be transmitted via sexual contact.

Rodents can also transmit the virus.

Death from the Lassa virus is rare, and health officials say 80 percent of humans infected with it don’t show any symptoms, WCCO reports.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota’s health commissioner, says the state health department and the CDC are working to notify anyone who may have come into contact with the traveler, including his fellow airline passengers.

“The hospital has done an excellent job of caring for the patient and taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of hospital staff, visitors and patients,” Ehlinger says.

The commissioner stresses that the general public is not at risk.

The last case of Lassa fever in the U.S. was in 2010, and was also related to travel.

The general public isn't at risk. The man is in stable condition, the Star Tribune reports.

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