Lassa fever in Nigeria

This item appears on page 18 of the May 2018 issue.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, more than 1,000 suspected cases of Lassa fever have occurred in Nigeria, resulting in the deaths of at least 90 people. Another 10 suspected cases were reported in neighboring Benin in people who had recently visited Nigeria.

Lassa fever, which is endemic to West Africa, is a hemorrhagic viral disease spread by rodent urine and feces. It also can be spread through contact with fluids from infected humans. 

According to the World Health Organization, common symptoms include headache, sore throat, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhea. About a quarter of the infections progress to internal bleeding in the mouth, lungs or intestinal tract. 

There is no cure for Lassa fever, but there is evidence that antiviral drugs reduce the severity of symptoms.