Lassa fever is an illness that may be mostly familiar only to those who live among the population in West Africa, but this does not mean the illness cannot be contracted by those who are just passing through. A resident of Minnesota, who just happened to be one of the many travelers going to West Africa, contracted the virus that causes lassa fever which in turn may raise concerns for all travelers who could be affected by this incident. Since 2010, there may have only been approximately 10 other cases reported for individuals stricken with the lassa fever disease living within the United States. Lassa Fever is an intense viral disease that may cause symptoms similar to that of the influenza virus that may not become apparent until one to three weeks after an individual has been exposed to it. other symptoms may include hemorrhaging of the nose, ears, and the eyes. If left untreated, lassa fever could lead to permanent neurological conditions such as of deafness, or maybe even resulting in death in a matter of weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has speculated that the symptoms of those who have been reportedly affected by lassa fever may be difficult to detect. Out of the number of lassa fever cases reported, 15-20 percent of these patients have had an outcome that resulted in death in spite of all the medical treatment that was received during hospitalization. While it is not clear as to whether or not these reported cases were of lassa fever patients who were travelers, the issue of lassa fever itself started to raise enough concerns for an investigation to being into how the illness may be related to travelers. The transmission of lassa fever is presumed to be airborne in which infestation may begin inside of the nostrils but not exclusive to traveling throughout all areas of the body. Researchers suggest that the origin of this virus that possibly causes this hemorrhagic fever might stem from the mastomys rodent by way of urine and feces. The mastomys rodents are generally found in the savannas and forests of West Africa, and may be able to contaminate any object that it touches.
This may be something that should raise concerns for those travelers who are planning to visit other countries outside of the United States in order to reduce the risk of needing to be hospitalized for an incident of lassa fever. Although all travelers should be aware of any health risks associated with visiting a specific country, there may not be a way to guarantee travelers will not contract a contagious disease when traveling outside of the United States. Ultimately, any and all the precautions for infection control should be mandatory for all travelers to understand and imperative for all travelers to adhere to. Travelers should make sure to use proper hand washing techniques after handling objects located in a public area as well as those objects located inside of hotel rooms. It may also be suggested that travelers should research reviews on the current standings of any particular restaurant of interest before dining there.
Opinion by Stephanie Tapley