Lassa fever in Nigeria
4 April 2012 - At the beginning of 2012, WHO was notified by the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria of an outbreak of Lassa fever. As of March 22, 2012, 623 suspected cases, including 70 deaths have been recorded from 19 of the 36 States since the beginning of the year. Laboratory analysis undertaken at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State has confirmed the presence of Lassa virus infection in 108 patients. Three doctors and four nurses were reported to be among the fatalities. This information is provisional and subject to change when laboratory results for Lassa fever in suspected cases become available.
The Federal and State governments are responding to the outbreak by enhancing the disease surveillance for early detection, reinforcing treatment of patients, and conducting awareness campaigns among the affected population.
Major challenges are the ongoing security risks in the country limiting access to some areas as well as the limited availability of resources to respond to the escalating outbreak.
WHO does not advise or recommend any restrictions on travel or trade with Nigeria. Travellers returning from affected areas who develop symptoms of fever, malaise, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain should seek medical advice.
People usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to infected rodents belonging to Mastomys species. Person-to-person transmission occurs through direct contact with sick patients in both community and health care settings. Those at greatest risk are persons living in rural areas where Mastomys are found. Health care workers are at risk if adequate infection control practices are not maintained.