News24

Lassa fever kills 17 in Nigeria

2010-05-18 16:27

Kano - A fresh outbreak of Lassa fever has killed 17 people and left dozens infected in northern Nigeria's Kebbi State in the past month, a health official said on Tuesday.

"We have so far lost 17 people to the Lassa fever outbreak which started about four weeks ago," state chief epidemiologist Shehu Mohammed said.

Lassa fever is an endemic acute viral haemorrhagic illness common in west Africa, which is usually contracted through contact with rodents' excreta.

"Scores of people have been confirmed to have been infected with the disease," said Mohammed in a phone interview.

He said the outbreak was recorded in three local districts, including the state capital Birnin-Kebbi, the worst hit with nine recorded deaths.

Mohammed said the World Health Organisation has roped in medical experts from South Africa, Netherlands and Nigeria's commercial centre Lagos to help tackle the outbreak.

The disease, which causes fever, headache, difficulty in swallowing and can lead to infection of vital organs and death, is named after the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria's Borno State where it was first identified in 1969.

It occurs mainly in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and in Sierra Leone where it claims roughly 200 lives each year.