45 die from Lassa fever in S Leone
Freetown - Health officials in Sierra Leone on Thursday said 45 people had died from Lassa fever in the first nine months of the year including a woman who ran a rat meat restaurant.
The head of the health ministry's national disease surveillance Foday Dafae said up to 152 cases of Lassa fever, which can be transmitted by bush rats, had so far been confirmed for the same period.
Dafae said tests showed 21 people had come into contact with the woman and her six-year-old son, who also died, in the northern city of Makeni. All survived after emergency treatment.
According to the official, the disease which has migrated from the forest region of the east to the savannah grasslands of the north, causes fever, sore throat, chest pain, diarrhoea and loss of hearing.
Medical experts here said the disease was first discovered in the northern Nigerian village of Lassa in 1969 and it was now endemic in parts of West Africa including Liberia, Guinea, Senegal and rural Sierra Leone.