Lassa fever in West Africa
Updated: August 21, 2017
- Benin and Burkina Faso have been added to the list of countries reporting Lassa fever
What is Lassa Fever?
Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever illness carried by infected rats (rodents). It is spread through contact with objects soiled by urine or feces of infected rats. Rats often go unnoticed living in homes and areas where food is stored. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, feces or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever.
Symptoms of Lassa fever are usually gradual and include:
- general weakness
- sore throat
- chest and muscle pain
- nausea and vomiting
The disease can progress with symptoms of:
- facial swelling,
- bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract
There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Lassa fever infection.
Where is Lassa fever a concern?
Lassa fever is a known risk in West Africa. It occurs in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Nigeria as well as other West African countries.
In 2017, the World Health organization has confirmed cases and/or outbreaks of Lassa fever in the following countries:
- Burkina Faso
For up to date information on affected countries, please visit the World Health Organisation, disease outbreak news on Lassa fever.
You are at greatest risk if you are:
- living or working in affected areas and have been exposed to rats
- providing care for patients in a community where the illness is present
How can you protect yourself from Lassa fever?
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.
- Avoid contact with rats (rodents), especially rat urine and feces.
- Store food in rodent-proof containers.
- Dispose of garbage far from your living quarters.
- Maintain clean living quarters.
- Do not eat rats.
- Ensure that food is well cooked.
- Protect yourself from the spread of germs:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Do not share eating or drinking utensils.
- Clean surfaces that are frequently touched (for example: doorknobs and counters).
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Health care workers should follow strict infection control measures. This includes wearing all necessary personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields when caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Lassa fever.
- Monitor your health.
- If you develop symptoms of Lassa fever when travelling or after you return to Canada, seek medical attention.
- Tell your health care provider where you have been travelling or living.
- Date modified: