Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever that is primarily transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces from Mastomys rats.
Though to a lesser extent, secondary human-to-human transmission can also occur through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected persons, especially in health-care settings.
All persons suspected to have contracted Lassa fever infection should be quarantined in isolation facilities, body fluids and feaces of persons infected with Lassa virus should be properly disposed. Ribavirin has been approved for the treatment of Lassa fever, but prevention is still the best.
Rodents should be kept out of homes and food supplies. Effective personal hygiene is will go a long way in eradicating this disease, also grains and other foodstuffs should be stored in rodent-proof containers
In Nigeria, from 3 to 30 January 2022, 211 laboratory confirmed Lassa fever cases including 40 deaths (case fatality ratio: 19%) have been cumulatively reported in 14 of the 36 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory across the country (Figure 1). Three states account for 82% of confirmed cases: Ondo (63), Edo (57) and Bauchi (53). The other states affected are Benue (11), Ebonyi (5), Oyo (5), Taraba (5), Kogi (4), Enugu (2), Kaduna (2), Cross River (1), Delta (1), Katsina (1) and Plateau (1) (Figure 2).
Of the 211 laboratory confirmed cases, five cases have been reported among health workers in two states, Edo (3) and Benue (2).
In contrast, noticeably less Lassa fever cases with less geographical spread were reported for the same period (epidemiological weeks 1- 4) in 2021 (54 confirmed cases, including 12 deaths, from 8 States).
Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and the annual peak of Lassa fever cases is typically observed during the dry season (December–April). Thus, the number of infections is expected to rise further until the end of the dry season.
While endemic in Nigeria, cases are much higher than the previous epidemic seasons. This could be attributed to reduced response capacity in surveillance and laboratory testing. It is necessary to continue to monitor the annual peaks of Lassa fever in order to contextualize incidence and inform the effective management of Lassa fever.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said a total of 104 Lassa fever deaths and 636 confirmed infections have been recorded across Nigeria between January to 26 February.
The NCDC noted that the death toll was recorded with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 16.4 per cent which is lower than what was recorded for the same period in 2022 (18.1 per cent).
This is contained in the agency’s latest epidemiological report published on its website for week 8 of 2023, spanning 20 to 26, February.
The report shows that 351 suspected cases were recorded within the week under review, with 59 infections and 10 deaths confirmed.
In total for 2023, according to the report, at least one confirmed case has been recorded across 88 local government areas in 22 states, adding that of all the confirmed cases, 70 per cent are from Ondo, Edo and Bauchi.
Ondo State in the South-west topped the infection list with 33 per cent, while Edo and Bauchi states accounted for 28 and nine per cent of the infections respectively.
NCDC maintained that the number of suspected cases has increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2022, adding that four new healthcare workers were affected in the reporting week.
We therefore advice that All persons suspected to have contracted Lassa fever infection should be quarantined in isolation facilities, body fluids and feaces of persons infected with Lassa virus should be properly disposed. Ribavirin has been approved for the treatment of Lassa fever, but prevention is still the best. Rodents should be kept out of homes and food supplies. Effective personal hygiene is will go a long way in eradicating this disease, also grains and other foodstuffs should be stored in rodent-proof containers