On Friday, February 9, Guinean health officials reported the country's first Lassa fever death to have been recorded in over 20 years. According to local sources, the patient developed symptoms on January 9 in the town of Diécké, and died in the Liberian town of Ganta on January 10. Guinean health officials announced that 27 people who had been in contact with the deceased patient were under medical observation for 21 days, and determined not to have contracted the disease.
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 Guinea are advised to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from the disease and to avoid contact with potential carriers of the illness. 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.