Lassa Fever Outbreak Kills 41 in Less Than a Week in Nigeria

Nigeria is being hit by an outbreak of lassa fever since the beginning of the month.

Within a week, more than 200 confirmed cases and 41 deaths have been reported across 11 states in the West African country.

While the new coronavirus epidemic storms the world, Nigerian authorities are facing an outbreak of Lassa fever, with more than 41 deaths and 200 infections reported in January 2020. To respond to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases, the Nigerian government has activated a national emergency operation center.

What is Lassa fever?

Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever, belonging to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

Up to now, the disease has only occurred in West African countries and it got its name from the town of Lassa, Nigeria, where it was first identified in 1969.

How does Lassa fever spread?

Rodent faeces or urine. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.

Lassa fever can also be transmitted human to human via body fluids and excretions such as blood, urine, saliva, sperm, vomit, faeces.

Symptoms and treatment on Lassa fever

The virus has an incubation period of 6 to 21 days.

In about 80% of the cases, lassa fever is asymptomatic. But for the other 20%, it can cause fever, physical fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains or sore throat.

Ribavirin appears to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if it is given early enough.

Previous outbreaks of Lassa fever

There are approximately 100,000 to 300,000 infections in West Africa every year, with about 5,000 ending deadly. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, 10 to 16 percent of the sick people annually have Lassa fever.

Last year, the disease killed more than 160 people in Nigeria only. The number of Lassa fever cases usually climbs in January due to the dry season.