A man from KwaZulu-Natal was diagnosed with Lassa fever on Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Friday.
The man, who has since died, said he had extensive travel history in Nigeria before returning to SA.
“He became ill after entering SA and was admitted to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg.”
His diagnosis was confirmed by laboratory tests performed at the NICD.
“Unfortunately, the man succumbed to the infection. Efforts are being made to trace and monitor all possible contacts. At the time of this report, no secondary cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed,” the NICD said.
Lassa fever was said to be a viral infection endemic to West African countries and reported primarily in Sierra Leone. Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
In the endemic countries, up to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever are recorded annually, with about 5,000 deaths, it said. There is no vaccine for Lassa fever.
The natural host of this virus is a species of rodent called the multimammate rat, which is commonly found in homes and other areas where a food source can be found.
The rats are permanently infected and shed the virus in their urine and feces. Humans can contract the virus through direct contact or inhalation in areas infested with infected rats.
Human-to-human transmission does not occur readily and the virus is not spread through casual contact . Cases of Lassa fever in travelers returning from endemic countries are reported from time to time, the NICD said.
In 2007, a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in South Africa. The case involved a Nigerian national with extensive travel history in rural parts of Nigeria before falling ill and receiving medical treatment in SA. In this case, no secondary cases of Lassa fever were reported.
In February of this year, an imported case of Lassa fever with secondary cases was identified in the UK.
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