• Travel Alert – Lassa Fever: West Africa, Nigeria

    Lassa Fever – West Africa: Nigeria

    Lassa fever has spread to 20 states and killed 108 people, the [Nigerian] Federal Government confirmed yesterday [11 Feb 2016]. A deadlier outbreak of the disease is possible as weather becomes hotter in coming weeks in most parts of the country, the government said.

    Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, made the disclosures in Abuja, while briefing journalists on the state of Lassa fever.

    Statistics given by the minister showed that almost 2 out of 3 persons who have been infected by Lassa fever in the country had died.

    “Nigeria has recorded 176 cases with 108 deaths given a case fatality rate of 61 per cent. Out of this, 78 are confirmed cases and 49 deaths given a specific case fatality rate of 63 per cent. “The total cases reported (suspected, probable and confirmed): 176; Total deaths (suspected, probable and confirmed): 108 (CFR: 61 per cent). Total confirmed cases: 78; Deaths in confirmed cases: 49 (CFR: 63 per cent).

    “As at today, 20 states are currently following up contacts, or have suspected or probable cases with laboratory results pending or laboratory confirmed cases,” the minister said. He added: “The outbreak is under control as evidenced by decline in new suspected cases; new laboratory confirmed cases and newly reported cases.

    Despite this achievement, however, you will agree with me that it will be dangerous if we go complacent at this stage, as we could record another flare-up and a 2nd wave deep in the dry season.

    I have instructed the NCDC to work closely with the Lassa Fever Eradication Committee and other partners to develop a Lassa Fever Control strategy that will withstand the test of time.”

    Communicated by: ProMED-mail

    The number of fatalities due to Lassa fever have increased from 101 on 6 Feb 2016 to 108 on 12 Feb 2016 — just one week later. One hopes that the case numbers will continue to decline.

    The virus is a member of the family _Arenaviridae_ and causes acute hemorrhagic fever. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with excreta of multimammate rats (_Mastomys_ spp.).

    Virus transmission can occur in houses or in hospital environments or laboratories in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Because there can be person-to-person transmission via contact with viremic blood or secretions of infected patients, adequate patient isolation and use of personal protection equipment for treatment of infected patients is essential for safety.

    Unfortunately, nosocomial transmission is not unusual.

    Prevention and control of Lassa fever depend on control of the rodent reservoir, the multimammate mouse (_Mastomys_ spp.), which occurs across Nigeria and beyond. Reduction of populations of this rodent will require active participation at the village level.

    That will necessitate mounting a public education program with support of rodent control technicians. There has been no indication that a village-level control effort has been initiated yet.


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