Annual Lassa fever outbreak causes concern in West Africa

The annual Lassa fever outbreak in West Africa has elicited a strong public response.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of a Lassa fever outbreak by the National IHR Focal Point on Jan. 21. 

Several health care workers reported a fever after coming into contact with a patient that had hemorrhagic fever. 

After the initial outbreak in health care workers, 71 additional cases were reported, with six being confirmed, 10 probable and 55 suspected. Seven of these cases, including two fatalities, were health care workers.

There has been a public response to the outbreak. The Ministry of Health of Benin, with the support of WHO, is working to control the outbreak. A field investigation has taken place, as well as enhanced surveillance. WHO has deployed a team of experts to the area to help with a response to the outbreak. The organization is also helping the country financially.

Lassa fever is known to impact many West African countries, particularly Nigeria. There are also annual outbreaks in Benin, with the peak of outbreaks coming in December and February. This outbreak is similar to those in the past. The virus is transmitted through contact of food or household items that are contaminated with rodent urine or feces.

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