While You Were Thinking About Ebola, Lassa Fever Came Over

While most of the media is occupied with speculating about the likelihood of Ebola utilizing a plane to make an appearance in North America--a feat it has been unable to accomplish--Lassa Fever appeared in Minnesota.

The case involves a traveler to West Africa who presented to a Minnesota hospital on March 31, 2004 with fever and confusion. 

Like Ebola, Lassa Fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever but, in contrast, is spread via rodent urine and has had 8 (counting this episode) appearances in the U.S. related to infected travelers. Another difference from Ebola, which may play a role in its ability to appear in disparate locales, is that its incubation period is at least 1 week. Because of this incubation period length, those harboring Lassa Fever have a higher opportunity to travel whereas those with Ebola have a much lower capacity to do this with an incubation period that can be as short as 2 days (note Ebola can have an incubation period of up to 21 days, so this isn't the total answer). 

What is striking about this Lassa case is that it--again--demonstrates the value of the astute clinician who integrated the patient's symptoms with his travel history and made the diagnosis. 

Chance does favor the prepared mind.