Lassa fever – Nigeria

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday disclosed that 149 citizens have so far lost their lives to Lassa fever in 2022; the highest deaths reported so far in four years. According to the report, Edo and Ondo states were currently leading in the number of deaths reported so far.

Since the last outbreak of the disease in 2016, the NCDC noted that there had been an increase in the number of recurring cases. In 2019, the center noted that 796 cases were reported; while in 2020, a total of 1,165 cases were confirmed during the height of the pandemic. The NCDC also confirmed a total of 4,632 suspected cases in 2021.

Cumulatively from week 1 to week 17 in the year 2022, 149 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 19.6 per cent. In total for 2022, 23 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 95 local government areas. Of all confirmed cases, 68 per cent are from states namely; Ondo (28 per cent), Edo (25 per cent) and Bauchi (15 per cent). Ondo has so far reported 37 deaths, Edo -26, Bauchi -12, Kogi -7, Ebonyi -18, Benue -8, Taraba -14, Oyo -4, Gombe -8, Enugu -2, Nasarawa -6, Anambra -1 and Kaduna -3. Others are Cross River -1, Kano -1 and Katsina -1.

The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years (range: 1 to 80 years, median age: 30 years). The number of suspected cases has increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2021.

Photo: Lassa fever virus – Electron micrograph

Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. Many of those infected by the virus do not develop symptoms but for 1 percent of those infected, death occurs in the first two weeks. The disease is usually initially spread to people via contact with the urine or feces of an infected mouse. Spread can then further continue between people.

There is no vaccine. Prevention requires isolating those who are infected and decreasing contact with mice.

Descriptions of the disease date from the 1950s. The virus was first described in 1969 from a case in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria. Lassa fever is relatively common in West Africa.

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