Lassa Fever Outbreak in Nigeria

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Donald G. McNeil Jr.-

Around 615 cases of Lassa fever have been reported across 17 different states in Nigeria during recent weeks. Lassa fever is a viral disease acquired by food contamination from infected rodent’s feces and urine. Though usually resulting in mild symptoms, the disease can be fatal in many instances. Multiple difficulties face health officials trying to combat the outbreak. Firstly, symptoms of Lassa fever are initially very similar to other diseases, such as the flu, malaria, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses with symptoms such as fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting, and muscle pains. In addition, there is no quick diagnostic test available to rural areas where the disease outbreaks usually occur. As a result, Lassa fever is difficult to diagnose and treat quickly. Secondly, there is no vaccine for Lassa fever and no specific drugs are available to combat the disease. Third, one of the areas affected, Borno state, is where Nigerian military are currently fighting against Boko Haram militants. The WHO is sending a team with protective gear to help combat the disease. The recommendations to citizens currently are to store food properly in enclosed containers, to make sure to cook all food in a thorough manner, and to be proactive in keeping rodents from entering buildings.

 

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