An American doctor working with missionaries in Togo was flown to an isolation ward at an Atlanta hospital on Friday over suspicion that he had contracted Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is a deadly hemorrhagic disease similar to Ebola.
The patient, who has not been identified publicly, was being flown in a specially equipped aircraft from Togo and was expected to arrive at Emory University Hospital this weekend, according to officials.
Bruce Ribner, director of Emory’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit, said the isolation ward was where Emory successfully treated four Ebola patients in 2014.
“The take-away from this for the public, is that there is absolutely no risk to anyone. We have shown that we can handle Ebola and this is a lot less communicable,” he said
“Lassa fever has been endemic in Africa for many years, with up to 300,000 infections annually.
“Only about 3 per cent presenting symptoms severe enough need hospitalisation.
“Of those hospitalised, about 20 per cent of the cases are fatal, compared with a 70 per cent rate for all patients who catch Ebola, which is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.
“With Lassa, most of the people who get it never even know it.”
An outbreak of Lassa fever is now underway in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and it is starting to spread to nearby countries, including Togo.
According to a WHO statement, 159 suspected cases of Lassa fever and 82 deaths were reported between August 2015 and January 2016.
“Some media reports have said as many as 101 people have died as of February,” Ribner said.
“Like Ebola, Lassa causes a severe fever with bleeding.
“It is most commonly transmitted to people from rodent excrement, and it can be transmitted from person to person by contact with blood or bodily fluids.
“You can’t catch it like you get the common cold. We can handle this.”