According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Lassa fever cases continue to increase at a worrying rate throughout Nigeria, with the country’s few treatment centers struggling to cope. As of Wednesday, March 14, at least 1386 suspected cases of the disease, of which 365 have been confirmed and 114 fatal, have been reported since January 1 across 19 states. The majority of cases have been registered in the southern state of Edo.
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 Nigeria 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.