The death toll from the ongoing Lassa fever outbreak has risen to at least 41 people as of Sunday, January 26. According to health officials, at least 258 cases have been confirmed across 19 states. The most severely affected states include Edo, Ondo, and Ebonyi.
Although Nigerian health officials have implemented public health measures to curb further spread of the disease, the outbreak is likely to continue over the coming weeks.
Lassa fever, an acute viral hemorrhagic illness, is most often transmitted via the ingestion or inhalation of urine or droppings of an infected multimammate rat (Mastomys natalensis). The disease can also be spread from person to person through exposure to the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of an individual infected with the virus, and via medical equipment that has been contaminated (e.g. reused needles). Symptoms of the disease include a slight fever, headache, general malaise, and weakness. In some cases, more serious symptoms such as hemorrhaging (e.g. gums, eyes, nose, etc.), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock may occur. Lassa fever is relatively common in West Africa.
All those present in Nigeria are advised to take necessary measures to protect themselves from Lassa fever and to avoid contact with potential carriers of the disease. Wash hands and disinfect all surfaces frequently. Drink only bottled or purified water, and eat only thoroughly cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables. All other food should be thoroughly cooked prior to consumption. Individuals who believe they may have contracted Lassa fever are advised to seek immediate medical attention.