Fifty seven people have died in an outbreak of Lassa Fever (a form of hemorrhagic fever, similar too, but not as severe as, Ebola) in southern Nigeria between 1 December 2017 and 11 February 2017, according to the Nigerian Centre For Disease Control. A total of 615 suspected cases have been reported, with 193 of these confirmed by laboratory tests. Four of the known deaths are of health workers, with another seven such professionals having fallen in and been confirmed to have the disease. The World Health Organisation has also recorded cases of the disease in Benin and Sierra Leone this year, and several other West African nations are making preparations for outbreaks of the disease, which is endemic to the region.
An isolation ward for Lassa Fever victims in Ondo, Nigeria. Graphic Online.
Lassa fever is caused by the Lassa Virus, a member of the Arenavirida Virus family, single stranded RNA Viruses which cause a range of illnesses in animals and Humans, including Lujo Fever (a hemorrhagic disease endemic to southern Africa), Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (a form of Meningitis) and Whitewater Arroyo Fever (a hemorrhagic disease endemic tothe southwestern United States).
Lassa Fever is less lethal than hemorrhagic diseases such as Ebola or Marburg, with about 80% of those infected developing no, or only very mild, symptoms, and a mortality rate of about 1%. However this lack of lethality enables the disease to spread more freely, as asymptotic people can still spread the disease. The Virus also infects Soft-furred Rats, Mastomys spp., which serve as a natural reservoir for the disease, and which are prone to invading Human homes in search of food, particularly during the West African Dry Season, when other food sources tend to be scarce.
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