Three Cases of Lassa Fever Confirmed in Liberia
Monrovia – The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) confirmed three Lassa fever cases from two counties: Montserrado (2) and Nimba (1).
All three confirmed cases have died. The three cases have undergone safe and dignified burials and the county health teams are conducting contact tracing on both healthcare workers and community members who had high-risk (i.e., direct) contact with the patients during their symptomatic periods.
No epidemiological link has been established between the three confirmed cases that died. A total of 134 contacts have been identified and are currently being followed-up (Montserrado 105, Margibi 25 and Nimba 4) inclusive of 37 healthcare workers. As of March 7, 2018, no new confirmed Lassa fever cases have been reported.
Since January 1, 2018, a total of 28 suspected cases of Lassa fever have been reported across Liberia including 12 deaths. Of these, seven (7) cases have been confirmed by the National Public Health Reference Laboratory: Nimba (4), Montserrado (2) and Bong (1).
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic illness caused by a virus that is transmitted through contact with the urine or feces of infected rodents and through direct contact with body fluids of symptomatic human cases. In recent years, a consistently increasing trend in the number of Lassa fever cases has been observed in Liberia and other countries across West Africa. This includes Nigeria, where an ongoing outbreak has led to 353 confirmed cases with 78 confirmed and 8 probable deaths since January 1, 2018.
Symptoms of Lassa fever include vomiting, respiratory distress, chest pain, hiccups, and unexplained bleeding.
Public Health action taken by the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, Ministry of Health and partners are:
Ensuring that all counties are aware of and prepared for handling any additional Lassa fever cases;
Disseminating health promotion messages about the signs and symptoms of Lassa fever; Re-training Redemption Hospital staff in Lassa fever case management and safe handling of cases; Adapting case definition and screening tools and Conducting surveillance and contact tracing in affected counties
An effective treatment called ribavirin is available in the country for Lassa fever and should start as early as possible following symptomatic onset. Therefore, visiting a health facility immediately upon detection of any of the symptoms is critical to both preventing spread of the disease and ensuring safe recovery of the case.
Lassa fever can be prevented by doing the following:
- Keep your home and surroundings clean to keep rats from entering the home
- Cover your food and drinking water to stop rats from playing in them
- Dispose of garbage correctly and away from the home
- Always wash your hands with soap and water