1996 - Lassa fever in Sierra Leone - Suspected
15 May 1996
Disease Outbreak Reported
On 9 May, a team from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and WHO was sent to investigate an outbreak in Kenema and other towns from where reports of 14 deaths of suspected Lassa fever had been received. The rapid assessment identified 76 suspected cases with 46 deaths from 1 January to 10 May in the Kenema Districts (mainly Tongo, Panguma and Segbwema), Eastern Region. Most cases were in adolescent females. Almost all who were pregnant aborted and most of these women died. The outbreak occurred in an area where Lassa fever is endemic and coincided with an unprecedented increase in the rat population in the affected towns. A special task force has been established for control activities. As the hospitals in Kenema lack capacity for safe barrier nursing an isolation ward with 24 beds has been made available for patient management at the Government Hospital. Blood specimens collected by the investigating team will be shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA for investigation.