Lassa fever rocks Nigeria, Benin; Ghana records first death in 2018

PARIS, France––Nigeria’s health authorities say a Lassa fever outbreak in the country has reached a record high and there are suspected cases in neighboring Benin as well as Ghana.

Africa’s populous nation, Nigeria, has reported more than 317 confirmed cases in two months, more than the total for all of 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there are 20 suspected cases across the border in neighboring Benin.

Health care sources revealed that there is no vaccine for the hemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through the bodily fluids of sick people. Humans also can contract the disease by coming into contact with food contaminated by rat excrement.

Those with the disease initially present with high fever but in extreme cases can later suffer bleeding from the nose and mouth.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Wednesday that seventy-two people died from Lassa fever since the start of 2018.

On February 6, the Nigerian health ministry reported 31 deaths from the disease, which is caused by a virus of the same family as Marburg and Ebola.

Neighboring Ghana has recorded its first Lassa fever death of the year after the disease is reported to have killed at least 72 people in Nigeria in the past seven weeks.

A senior official of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) confirmed on Thursday that the death in Ghana was recorded at the General Hospital in the port city of Tema, some 38 km east of the national capital, Accra.

The director-general of the GHS, Anthony Nsiah-Asare, said all the frontline staff at the hospital that handled the patient before he died are being screened, while further investigations to trace the background and all contacts of the deceased are being pursued to prevent the spread of the virus nationwide.

In February, the GHS admonished citizens not to create an enabling environment for rats to invade their homes amid a looming threat of an outbreak.

The GHS also ordered all health facilities nationwide to be on high alert following the outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria.

Ghana is said to have recorded its first confirmed case of Lassa fever in 2011, with two districts reporting serious outbreaks.

Lassa fever is a severe viral hemorrhagic fever known to be endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.
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