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01 Dec 2019 | 01:35 AM UTC

Sierra Leone: Lassa fever outbreak reported in Tonkolili district as of October 30

Three cases of Lassa fever reported in Tonkolili district as of October 30; take necessary precautions



According to health officials, at least three cases of Lassa fever - two of them involving foreign national doctors - and one death have been reported as of Wednesday, October 30, in the Tonkolili district in northern Sierra Leone. The epidemic appears contained as of late November, however it is recommended to avoid traveling to the area until further notice, as 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.


All those present in Sierra Leone, notably the Tonkolili district, 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.