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Lassa fever patient being treated in Atlanta

By Shawn Price   |   March 14, 2016 at 5:08 AM

ATLANTA, March 14 (UPI) -- An American health care worker has been diagnosed with potentially deadly Lassa fever and is being treated at Emory University Hospital, the CDC said Sunday.

The patient, who was not identified, is a physician's assistant at a missionary organization in Togo, in Western Africa where the condition was first diagnosed. The patient was transported in a specialized medevac aircraft with an Aeromedical Biological Containment System from Togo to the hospital in Atlanta on Saturday.

The patient in being treated in the same Serious Communicable Diseases Unit where four American Ebola patients were treated in 2014.

"We are continuing to treat the patient for symptoms of febrile illness," Emory spokeswoman Holly Korschun said.

Lassa fever is a virus spread by the urine or feces of rats in Sierra Leone, Liberia, New Guinea and Nigeria. Person to person transmission is rare, the CDC said.

"The worker had cared for or had contact with a Lassa fever patient at a hospital in Togo," the CDC said.

Benin, the African nation next to Togo, is currently suffering a Lassa outbreak and has a CDC staff to both countries in response.

Similar to Ebola with symptoms like bleeding but generally not as deadly, about 80 percent of patients will experience mild symptoms, the World Health Organization said. About one percent of Lassa patients die.

The patient at Emory is only the sixth case of Lassa fever in U.S. history, the CDC said. In each case, the patient had contracted the disease in the countries where the virus is common.

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