Nigeria is grappling with a persistent outbreak of Lassa fever, as the number of suspected cases has risen compared to last year. As of April 2, 2023, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported 4,338 suspected cases.
In the first 13 weeks of 2023, there have been 846 confirmed infections and 148 deaths, resulting in a case fatality rate (CFR) of 17.5%, which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2022 (19.1%).
The latest situation report from NCDC reveals that in the week 13 report, covering March 27 to April 2, the number of new confirmed cases decreased from 39 to 23, while the number of fatalities increased from two to four.
So far in 2023, at least one confirmed case has been reported in 25 states across 99 Local Government Areas, with 72% of all confirmed cases coming from Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi states.
Among the three states, Ondo State accounted for 32% of the cases, while Edo and Bauchi states reported 29% and 11% respectively. Additionally, one healthcare worker was affected in the reporting week 13, highlighting the risks faced by frontline workers.
Lassa fever is a severe viral illness transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated food, household items, or infected rodents or persons. Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplained bleeding from various body openings.
The NCDC report identifies several challenges in responding to Lassa fever in Nigeria, including late presentation of cases leading to increased CFR, poor health-seeking behavior due to the high cost of treatment and management, inadequate environmental sanitation, and limited awareness in high-burden communities.