Risk managers are being warned to keep tabs on outbreaks of Lassa Fever, which have occurred in both Nigeria and Guinea in the past few weeks, and manage the risk to any workers in the region.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 353 Lassa cases since 1 January, compared with 143 cases for the whole of 2017, while authorities in Guinea announced the first death from the disease.
NCDC director Chikwe Ihekweazu said: “The harder you look, the more you find,” citing a change in the virus’s environment, viral mutation, and better reporting of cases by the public in response to awareness campaigns.
Lassa Fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease that can be transmitted to humans from infected rat faeces or urine. Like Ebola, but less contagious, it can also be passed from one person to another via infected bodily fluids.
Full protective gear for medical personnel is vital and isolation is essential.
In Guinea, health authorities confirmed that at least one person has died and more than two dozen others have been monitored for possible symptoms. However, critics questioned why it took a month for the government to make the news public.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the Guinean citizen died across the border in Liberia – the same way that Ebola initially spread.