Health officials in Nigeria have reported an outbreak of Lassa fever in the country's southern Delta state. According to local sources, at least one death has been reported as of mid-September. In addition, two individuals suspected of having contracted the disease have been placed under quarantine by local authorities in the Ndokwa East local government area.
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 the affected area are advised to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from Lassa fever and to avoid contact with potential carriers of the disease. In addition to the abovementioned measures recommended by Liberian authorities, 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.
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