According to state officials, a Lassa fever outbreak has reportedly killed one man in Igbeagu, Ebonyi State on Friday, December 27. The victim's two siblings are suspected to have been infected by the disease. The Ebonyi state government has ordered the closure of St. Vincent Hospital for cleanup with immediate effect, as well as the evacuation of the victim's siblings and other patients to the South-East Virology Center in Abakaliki for further treatment.
Further spread of the disease is possible over the near term.
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.
Individuals in Nigeria, notably in Ebonyi State, are advised to take the 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.