Nigeria Battles Lassa Fever: 897 Cases, 162 Deaths Reported in 2024

NCDC: Lassa Fever Kills 152, Experts Caution


In its latest Lassa fever situation report, that was obtained by the PUNCH newspaper, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has revealed that the death toll from the 2022 outbreak of Lassa fever is now 152.

Ever since the last outbreak of Lassa fever in 2016, the NCDC mentioned that there had been an increase in the number of recurring cases. In 2019, the NCDC also noted that 796 cases had been reported, while in 2020, only 1,165 cases were confirmed during the height of the pandemic. The NCDC had also confirmed that there had been a total of 4,632 suspected cases in 2021.

According to the NCDC, “So far in 2022, 152 people have lost their lives; the highest deaths reported in four years. Cumulatively, from week 1 to week 18 in 2022, 152 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 19.6%. In total, for 2022, 23 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 95 local government areas. Of all confirmed cases, 68% are from states namely, Ondo (28%), Edo (25%) and Bauchi (15%). The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years (range:1 to 80 years, median age: 30 years). The number of suspected cases has increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2021.”

The NCDC also noted that although 51 health workers were affected, 723 persons had been hospitalized. It further added that, “The Federal Ministry of Environment is also implementing a Lassa fever environmental response campaign in high burden states.

“Lassa fever presents initially like any other febrile illness such as malaria. Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and other body areas. The time between infection and appearance of symptoms of the disease ranges from three to twenty-one days. Early treatment and diagnosis increase the chances of survival.”

In an interview with The PUNCH, Dr. Ayanfe Omololu, an infectious diseases physician at the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and a member of the Nigerian Infectious Diseases Society, cautioned about the need to practise proper hand hygiene and maintain a clean living environment.

“If one has an unexplained fever, or have unexplained bleeding, such persons should avoid self-medication, drink plenty of fluids and present at a hospital for review. There are effective medications that can be used for treatment, especially if patients present early. Lassa fever infection can be prevented by practising proper hand hygiene at all times – before and after using a toilet, before and after cooking, after being in crowded places, after dealing with animals and at other times. Also, it is important to maintain a clean environment at all times, properly dispose waste, rat-proof our homes, keep our foodstuffs in covered containers and find a way to eliminate rats from your homes; possibly keep cats. One should avoid bush meat for now and, if possible, reduce or avoid bush burning. These should reduce your likelihood of being infected with the disease.”