According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), at least 324 confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported across 20 states between January 1 and mid-February. In addition, NCDC officials have reported at least 72 confirmed fatalities and declared the outbreak an emergency. On January 22, health officials deployed rapid response teams to the most affected states, including Edo, Ebonyi, Plateau, Ondo, and Bauchi. Nigerian health officials, in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), have implemented public health measures to curb further spread of 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 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.
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