9 March 2018

Liberia: Lassa Fever Resurfaces in Liberia, 3 Deaths Confirmed

Photo: Premium Times
Lassa fever treatment (file photo)

Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic illness caused by a virus that is transmitted through contact with the urine or feces of infected rodents and through direct contact with body fluids of infected individuals.

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) have confirmed three cases of Lassa Fever in Montserrado and Nimba counties. All those confirmed to be carrying the fever have died, an MoH release has said.

According to the release, the victims were given a safe and dignified burial. The county health teams are now doing contact tracing on both healthcare workers and community members who came into contact with the patients during their symptomatic period and are considered to be at risk.

No epidemiological link has been established between those confirmed with the disease, though they have already died.

A total of 134 contacts have been identified and are currently being followed-up (Montserrado, 105, Margibi, 25 and Nimba 4), including 37 healthcare workers. As of March 7, 2018, no new confirmed Lassa fever cases have been reported, the release said.

Since January 1 this year, a total of 28 suspected cases of Lassa fever have been reported across Liberia, including 12 deaths. Of these, seven cases have been confirmed by the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL). These were found in Nimba (4), Montserrado (2) and Bong (1).

Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic illness caused by a virus that is transmitted through contact with the urine or feces of infected rodents and through direct contact with body fluids of infected individuals.

In recent years, a consistently increasing trend in the number of Lassa fever cases has been observed in Liberia and other countries across West Africa.

This includes Nigeria, where an ongoing outbreak has led to 353 confirmed cases, with 78 confirmed and eight probable deaths since January 1, 2018.

Symptoms of Lassa fever include vomiting, respiratory distress, chest pain, hiccups, and unexplained bleeding.

Public Health action taken by the NPHIL, MoH and partners are to ensure that all counties are aware of and prepared for handling any additional Lassa fever cases; disseminating health promotion messages about the signs and symptoms of Lassa fever; re-training Redemption Hospital staff in Lassa fever case management and safe handling of cases; adapting case definition and screening tools; conducting surveillance and contact tracing in affected counties.

The release said an effective treatment called ribavirin is available in the country for Lassa fever and should start as early as possible following symptomatic onset. Infected individuals can also be treated with blood serum taken from survivors of the hemorrhagic virus disease .

Therefore, visiting a health facility immediately upon detection of any of the symptoms is critical to both preventing spread of the disease and ensuring safe recovery.

Lassa fever can be prevented by keeping the home and surroundings clean, to keep rats from entering the home; cover your food and drinking water to stop rats from coming into direct contact with them; dispose of garbage correctly and away from the home; always wash your hands with soap and water.

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