Cologne University Hospital reports death from Lassa virus
In Cologne, one person died as a result of the so-called "Lassa fever". This is reported by the news agency "dpa", citing the spokesman for the university hospital. Lassa normally occurs in several countries in West Africa; in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), five imported illnesses have occurred since 1974. More background information on the current case and the gender of the patient are to be announced in a press conference today.
Patient brought directly from Africa to Cologne University Clinic
A patient at the Cologne University Clinic died of the tropical disease Lassa fever. As reported by the "dpa", the person was referred to the clinic with the diagnosis of malaria directly from Africa to Cologne, but died a few hours later. Because of this, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine on Wednesday made the suspected diagnosis of Lassa fever, said spokesman Timo Mügge. "We immediately informed the responsible authorities with whom we are currently in close cooperation," said Mügge.
The university clinic has not yet announced whether the deceased is a woman or a man. According to "dpa", the public should be informed about this and other details of the case during the day by means of a press conference with the Cologne health authority.
Virus was first isolated in the late 1960s
Lassa fever belongs to e.g. Ebola and Dengue on the so-called "hemorrhagic fever diseases". According to information from the RKI, it was named after a city in northeastern Nigeria, where it was first described in 1969 and the virus was subsequently isolated. The rodent "Mastomys natalensis" is the natural host of the pathogen. Although it is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, the animals are only infected with the Lassa virus in West Africa, according to the RKI.
Accordingly, there are two established areas in which the disease occurs: First, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and second, Nigeria. The rodent lives here in rural areas near human settlements, in some places between 50 and 100% of the animals carry the pathogen. The transmission takes place via contact or smear infection (e.g. via contaminated food) first to humans and then often from person to person e.g. about blood, saliva, vomit or coughed up blood drops.
Sixth case in Germany
In Germany, however, the disease is very rare when it is imported from Africa by travelers. According to the RKI, only five introduced diseases had been registered before the current case since 1974. In 1974 and 1985, for example, German doctors working in Africa who were treated and recovered in Germany. In 2000, a 23-year-old student died in Würzburg due to an infection with the Lassa virus on her trip to Ghana and the Ivory Coast. In the same year, a Nigerian fell victim to the disease after being flown to Wiesbaden for diagnosis and treatment. In the fifth case, a patient had recovered from the disease in 2006 in Frankfurt am Main after almost three months in hospital. The man had previously worked as a surgeon in his West African homeland of Sierra Leone.
In most cases, the viral disease causes little or no symptoms. Lassa fever begins insidiously, with the symptoms resembling flu at the beginning. Rising fever and tiredness are typical, as can muscle and limb pain, coughing, headache, nausea and vomiting. In an emergency, however, the infection can lead to internal bleeding and become life-threatening. According to the RKI, the disease accordingly requires special treatment and strict isolation of the infected person. (No)