Lassa Fever in Nigeria! What you should know and do.

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness, and is present in several West African countries most especially Benin’s vicinity and recently Nigeria. It is transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine and faeces of a local rat, which carries the virus.

 It can also spread through person-to-person contact, including in hospitals or laboratories lacking proper infection prevention and control measures. In severe cases, Lassa fever is fatal in up to 15% of patients. The CDC was quick to stress that Lassa fever is a severe viral illness but is not related to Ebola fever.


The spread of the case of Lassa fever to US and other countries “is a reminder that we are all connected by international travel. A disease anywhere can appear anywhere else in the world within hours,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release. According to the CDC, up to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever, and 5,000 deaths, occur in West Africa each year.

However, Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in the news release that “casual contact is not a risk factor for getting Lassa fever. People will not get this infection just because they were on the same airplane or in the same airport.”

Maintaining proper personal and home hygiene are very important to curtail the spread of this illness. Most homes which are full of rats and cockroaches are at the top risk of inviting this fever. Avoid putting your drinks bottle directly into your mouth. A clean cup is better. Using a straw for your drink could be harmful as you don’t know if it is well kept before it was packaged; or at drink shops. At this juncture, protection of our food items is highly important. Food such as Garri should be in a covered bowl and grains must be thoroughly washed before cooking.

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