Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak In Nigeria, 72 Dead From Lassa Fever

by Vern Evans

Seventy-two people have died in a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria. Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic disease that is animal-borne, or zoonotic. It is an acute viral illness spread by the common African rat.

A total of 2,122 cases have been recorded so far this year, marking a significant decrease from 8,280 suspected cases recorded in the same period in 2023, said the national disease control agency, according to Telesure English. 

The 72 deaths were among a total of 411 cases confirmed so far from the outbreak of the viral hemorrhagic fever recorded across 21 states since January, said the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) in its latest report. Sixty-five percent of the total confirmed cases were reported from the three states of Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi, while 35 percent were reported from 18 other states, the NCDC said.

Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. For the majority of Lassa fever virus infections (approximately 80%), symptoms are mild and are undiagnosed. Mild symptoms include slight fever, general malaise and weakness, and headache. In 20% of infected individuals, however, disease may progress to more serious symptoms including hemorrhaging (in gums, eyes, or nose, as examples), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis. Death may occur within two weeks after symptom onset due to multi-organ failure. -United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

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Approximately 15%-20% of patients hospitalized for Lassa fever die from the illness. However, only 1% of all Lassa virus infections result in death. The death rates for women in the third trimester of pregnancy are particularly high. Spontaneous abortion is a serious complication of infection with an estimated 95% mortality in fetuses of infected pregnant mothers.

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