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Nigeria authorities scramble to contain Lassa outbreak

Lassa is transmitted by contact with rodents and their excrement PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP

In Nigeria an outbreak of the deadly virus Lassa fever has killed an estimated 43 people in the first 30 days of the year.

More than 450 cases of the hemorrhagic fever were reported in January, a sharp increase on the same period last year.

That represents the same number of cases as in the first six months of 2017.

Of the 43 suspected deaths from the disease, 37 have been laboratory confirmed four of the dead are health workers.

The Nigerian Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have said they are concerned about the scale the outbreak.

The WHO’s emergency coordinator on Lassa fever in Nigeria Dr Emmanuel Musa says the scale of this year’s outbreak is particularly concerning.

“We are working closely with the Nigerian authorities to contain this current outbreak,” he told RFI. “The numbers this year are concerning, but I am confident we have the resources to bring it under control”.

Lassa fever is endemic across much of West Africa. Benin, Sierra Leone and Liberia have all reported new cases this year.

The virus is spread though contact with rats and their excrement - it can also be spread via human to human contact.

Health authorities are urging people in zones affected by the outbreak to wash their hands regularly and minimize the chance of coming into contact with rodents or their excrement.

“Food should be kept in closed containers and everything should be done to avoid areas infested by rats,“ says Musa.