A Nigerian medical doctor who contracted Lassa fever in Nigeria is being treated at the Unitas Hospital in Pretoria, the Gauteng Department of Health said on Wednesday.
"The patient is under continuous observation and is receiving treatment in the hospital's special isolation ward," said departmental spokesperson, Vusi Sibiya.
According to the department's Chief of Operations Dr Abdul Rahman, the patient was flown from Abuja in Nigeria on Monday, for treatment of suspected malaria or septicaemia.
"Following tests Lassa fever was diagnosed and he was immediately admitted to the isolation ward at Unitas hospital," said Dr Rahman.
Lassa fever - is endemic in West-African countries such as Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone but is very rarely found in South Africa.
It is a viral haemorrhagic fever with symptoms that are similar to Marburg disease and malaria.
Its initial symptoms include fever, nausea, headaches, sore throat, muscle pains and a general feeling of weakness.
"Severe cases may progress to show facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity and bleeding from the mouth and nose," explained Dr Rahman.
Humans can contract Lassa fever from contact with infected animals. The best known carrier of the Lassa virus is a rodent known as multimammate rat (Mastomys) that is commonly found in West African countries.
The rats shed the virus in their bodily excretions.
The virus can also be spread through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces or other bodily secretions of a person with Lassa fever.
According to the World Health Organisation there is no epidemiological evidence supporting airborne spread between humans.
Their statistics show that up to 500 000 cases of Lassa fever are diagnosed in West Africa every year and the fatality rate among hospitalised patients vary between one percent and 15 percent.
In addition, Dr Rahman said the pilot, two co-pilots and two paramedics who accompanied the doctor on the flight from Nigeria had been placed under quarantine as a precautionary measure.
Dr Rahman explained that special isolation precautions had been taken at Unitas hospital to contain the disease and to protect health workers in the isolation wards who might be most at risk.
"These include the wearing of special protective clothing such as masks, gloves and gowns and the sterilisation of equipment," he said.
Dr Rahman said early diagnosis of the patient was proof of the quality laboratory services in the country which were able to make an early and correct diagnosis of the disease.
"It is also testimony to the excellent relationship between the public health and private sectors, the latter being responsible for transporting the patient," he added.
Source: Bio-Bio Technology