Lassa fever in West Africa

Updated: March 13, 2019

Note:

Original publication date: August 21, 2017

Current situation

Lassa fever is a known risk in West Africa.

Nigeria is currently experiencing a large outbreak of Lassa fever. Since the outbreak was declared on January 22nd, 2019, there has been over 420 confirmed cases and over 90 deaths reported. Suspected and/or confirmed cases have been reported in 21 of 36 states. Edo and Ondo states have reported the highest number of cases.

Since the beginning of 2019, the World Health Organization has also confirmed cases and/or outbreaks of Lassa fever in:

About Lassa fever

Lassa fever is caused by the Lassa virus. Lassa virus is most commonly spread through the urine and feces of infected rats.

This includes:

Those who are most at risk of getting Lassa fever:

Lassa virus can also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, tissue, urine, feces or other bodily fluids of a person infected with Lassa fever.

Typically, about 1% of infected people will die from Lassa fever.

There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Lassa fever.

Symptoms

Most people infected with Lassa virus will have mild, or no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they are usually gradual and include:

In some instances, the illness can progress to a severe form with symptoms of:

The disease is especially severe during late pregnancy when maternal death frequently occurs; fetal loss occurs in more than 80% of cases, particularly during the third trimester.

Recommendations for travellers

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.


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