Lassa Fever Outbreak in Nigeria

Prevention steps urged until vaccine available

Sierra Leonean nurse Veronica Koroma (left) and Dr. Donald Samuel Grant (right) stand by a patient in the Lassa fever ward at Kenema Government Hospital in southeastern Sierra Leone in February 2011. Photo by: REUTERS / Simon Akam/devex.com

Nigeria is dealing with the worst outbreak of Lassa fever on record. In the first six weeks of the year, there were 72 confirmed deaths. Lassa fever, a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms similar to Ebola, has a lower fatality rate than Ebola and can be treated in its early stages using the antiviral ribavirin. Lassa fever, which is spread by rats, is endemic in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leona and Nigeria.

Research continues on the development of a Lassa fever vaccine, but barriers exist to vaccination. Vaccines may not be effective against all strains of the disease, and infrastructure and supply chain issues could affect availability. Officials are also concerned about vaccine hesitancy in affected areas. Until a vaccine is available, officials are urging healthcare workers to follow basic steps in infection prevention and control. Health care workers are not vigilantly following suggested precautions and continue to become infected from Lassa fever.

More next steps on Lassa fever from Devex here.

 

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