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Britain has seen two cases of an Ebola-like virus that can cause vaginal bleeding and seizures hit its shores for the first time in over a decade.
The two Lassa fever cases – which kills around one in 100 people – were detected in members of the same family in the East of England, while a third relative is also suspected of having the disease.
They are among only 10 cases of the rodent-borne disease ever detected in the UK and the first since 2009.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) stressed there was no evidence of further transmission.
One of the patients has already made a full recovery, while the second is being moved to the Royal Free Hospital in London to receive specialist care.
Lassa fever is endemic in countries in west Africa, such as Nigeria, Liberia and Guinea.
People usually become infected after exposure to food or household items that are contaminated with urine or faeces of infected rats.
But the virus, which can make women bleed from their vagina and trigger seizures, can also be transmitted via bodily fluids.
Around 80 per cent of people who contract the disease experience no symptoms at all, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
And while most people make a full recovery, the virus can be fatal in roughly 1 per cent of cases.
Among those who do get symptoms, a quarter of patients will experience temporary deafness that will eventually return.
Other symptoms include headaches, sore throats and vomiting, as well as bleeding from the mouth and nose.
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However, they can gradually progress to shock, seizures, tremors, disorientation and comas without prompt treatment.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA said: 'We can confirm that two cases of Lassa fever have been identified in England and a further probable case is under investigation.
“The cases are within the same family and are linked to recent travel to west Africa.
“Cases of Lassa fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people. The overall risk to the public is very low.
“We are contacting the individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to provide appropriate assessment, support and advice.”
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