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13 Apr 2020 | 06:28 AM UTC

Liberia: Lassa fever outbreak ongoing as of late March

Health officials report 24 confirmed cases of Lassa fever with nine associated fatalities since January; take necessary precautions

health
LBR

Event

A Lassa fever outbreak is ongoing in Liberia as of late March. According to the Ministry of Health, Liberia has recorded 55 suspected cases of Lassa fever nationwide since January, out of which 24 were confirmed to have the disease, with nine fatalities. 20 of the confirmed cases originated from Grand Bassa and Bong counties. Health officials in Nimba have also suggested that Lassa fever is on the rise in the county as many individuals have become ill, but local hospitals lack the testing capabilities to confirm the suspected cases.

Although Liberian health authorities have implemented public health measures to prevent further spread of the disease, the outbreak is likely to continue over the near term.

Context

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.

Advice

All those present in Liberia 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.