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Health News

Aid worker dies from Lassa fever after two weeks in hospital

A British aid worker suffering from the highly infectious disease Lassa fever has died.

Ian Janeck was being treated at the infectious diseases unit at Coppetts Wood Hospital in Muswell Hill, north London - a branch of the Royal Free Hospital at Hampstead. His wife was by his side when he died.

Mr Janeck contracted the virus while working in Sierra Leone. He initially responded to treatment after arriving at the unit two weeks ago. He had been transferred from University College London's Tropical Diseases Hospital.

Mr Janeck, of Chatham, Kent, was placed on a ventilator and at first made some progress, but during the past week his condition deteriorated and his heart began to fail. Mr Janeck, who was in his early 50s, contracted the virus while working in the west African state on a contract for the Department for International Development.

Only 12 cases of Lassa fever have been diagnosed in North America and Europe since the virus was identified 30 years ago. It derives its name from the Lassa area of Nigeria - where the first case was reported. It tends to be transmitted to humans through exposure to the urine and faeces of infected animals, particularly rodents, but can be passed on by an infected person.

People are only infectious while symptoms are present or in the period of convalescence and then only through direct contact with bodily fluids.