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Lassa Fever Outbreak In Nigeria, Worst In History, Kills 78

The outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria is described by researchers as the worst outbreak of its kind in history, having killed more people than all previous reported cases combined.

More than 78 people have died following an outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria. In what the Nigeria Center for Disease Control terms as an “unprecedented outbreak,” at least 353 others are feared to be at risk of death while 766 are suspected to be infected.

Lassa fever symptoms.

Lassa fever, which may at first present like malaria and later like Ebola, is characterized by extreme hemorrhaging in the eyes, nose, gums and other body orifices. It is a viral disease that is transmitted from human to human via contact with bodily fluids of infected persons. Just like Ebola, Lassa fever is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is transmitted from animals to people.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2,845 people have had contact with an infected person since the outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria alone. The organization further states that 14 health workers have been infected as they attended patients in other, initially non-affected areas, indicating the fast-spreading rate of the outbreak.

Lassa fever has a mortality rate of 1% for all those infected with the virus. The rate jumps to 15% for all those who are infected and are hospitalized. A report by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) on March 4 indicated a mortality rate of 23.8% for the current outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria.

How lassa fever spreads.

While the fever is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from infected persons, the origin of the fever is traced back to rodents. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that contact with food, other household items and even the floor could expose you to Lassa fever if it has been in contact with multimammate mice. The rodents leave behind traces of urine and fecal matter, which contain the virus.

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multimammate rat (Mastomys natalensis)

The multimammate rats live in the bushy, forested villages of Nigeria. During the rainy season that ends around November, the rodents thrive, with their population reaching its peak numbers due to bountiful food from farmers’ harvests. After the rainy season, the farmers clear and burn down the fields in preparation for the next season. It is here where the rodents escape their natural habitats and seek refuge in people’s homes, bringing with them the Lassa virus.

Worst case of Lassa Fever in history.

The outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria has been described by researchers as the worst outbreak of its kind in history, having killed more people than all previous reported cases combined. Though rodents are to blame for transmission, researchers have this time also blamed climate change and high population growth in Nigeria, which has made it suitable for rodents to thrive.

According to the NCDC, many of the severe cases of the fever could have been avoided had the affected individuals responded appropriately. According to agency director Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, many of those infected thought they were suffering from malaria, and went took over the counter malaria drugs without seeking further medical atttention.

Dr. Ihekweazu says, “Those who notice fever symptoms should go to a health facility in order to get a test that will determine the cause of the fever.”



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Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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