Borno State reports first Lassa fever outbreak in 48 years
Borno state in northeast Nigeria has recorded its first Lassa fever outbreak in almost five decades. The last confirmed outbreak of the deadly disease was in 1969. WHO is supporting the government to contain the outbreak in an area of the country which is already coping with a humanitarian crisis resulting from years of conflict.
In order to contain the outbreak, the WHO emergency humanitarian health team in the state has taken a number of actions. This includes rapid training on clinical case management, contact tracing, mobilizing a network of healthcare workers at the hospital, and building public awareness.
Lassa fever has killed more than 160 people in West Africa, most of them in Nigeria, since November 2015. Many of these lives could have been saved if a rapid diagnostic test were available so that people could receive treatment early.
“We need resources to invest in diagnostics to easily, accurately and safely test for Lassa fever as we do for malaria and HIV," said Dr Formenty, expert in haemorrhagic fevers at WHO. "Without a proper diagnosis, many people do not receive the correct treatment and that is why we see so many people with Lassa fever dying each year.”
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential.