The Nigerian Health Ministry reported 17 new cases of Lassa fever during the week ending July 11, bringing the national total to 820 cases. The new cases were reported from Central and Etsako West LGAs (Edo State).

Nigeria map/CIA
Nigeria map/CIA

The 2014 total is less than the same period in 2013 when Nigeria had reported 946 cases. In 2014 to date, the African country has seen 28 fatalities due to Lassa, compared to 26 the year prior.

Lassa fever virus is endemic in Nigeria and is now a serious problem in 23 of the 36 states of that country. For more infectious disease news and informationvisit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa. The virus, a member of the virus family Arenaviridae, is a single-stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic, or animal-borne.

Lassa fever is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. While Lassa fever is mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80% of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20% have a severe multisystem disease.

The animal host of Lassa virus is a rodent known as the “multimammate rat” of the genus Mastomys. Humans get infected with Lassa through aerosol or direct contact with excreta from the rodent. Laboratory infections do occur primarily through contaminated needles.

The symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria (protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis.