In 2021, Nigeria witnessed decline in Lassa Fever infections, deaths – Official

In 2021, Nigeria lost no fewer than 102 persons to Lassa fever even as the country grappled with the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic.

This has indicated as much as about a 120 per cent drop from the 244 deaths recorded from the viral disease in 2020, according to the latest weekly situation report on Lassa fever by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The data, published on Sunday by the disease centre, revealed that as of Week 52, spanning December 27- January 2, there had been a decline in Lassa fever infections reported yearly.

According to the report, which ended the epidemiological cycle for 2021, Nigeria in the year recorded a total of 4,654 suspected cases out of which 510 were confirmed. The cases were reported in 17 states and 58 local governments.

Meanwhile, in 2020 Nigeria recorded a total of 6,732 suspected cases of Lassa fever with a total of 1,181 infections in 27 states and 131 local governments, the NCDC data revealed.

This indicated that there was an almost 50 per cent decline in suspected cases and about 115 per cent decrease in confirmed infections when the 2021 data is compared with that of 2020.

Health experts attributed the disparity in figure of 2021 and 2020 to two factors: the huge challenge posed by the COVID-19 war in its first year, which drew attention away from the usual reaction to Lassa fever and the confusion by patients as to whether they were dealing with COVID-19 or Lassa fever.


According to NCDC figures, in the reporting week 52 ,the number of new confirmed cases decreased from 29 in week 51, 2021 to 28 cases. These were reported from Ondo, Edo, Bauchi, Kaduna, Taraba States and the FCT.
Cumulatively, from week 1 to week 52, 2021, 102 deaths were reported with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 20.0 per cent which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2020 (20.7 per cent).

In total for 2021, 17 states recorded, at least, one confirmed case across 68 local government areas.

Of all the confirmed cases, 84 per cent were from three states with Edo State contributing 42 per cent; Ondo (34 per cent) and Bauchi (eight per cent).

The predominant age-group affected was 21-30 years with the male to female ratio for confirmed cases put at 1:0.9.

The number of suspected cases decreased compared to that reported for the same period in 2020.

No new healthcare workers were affected in the reporting week 52.

Lassa fever

Lassa fever is a severe viral hemorrhagic disease that was first reported in 1969 in an American missionary nurse who worked in Lassa town in Borno State of Nigeria.

It includes a spectrum of illness which could be mild, severe or even fatal in some cases. Nigeria has since 1969 recorded repeated outbreaks of the disease.

Lassa fever is transmitted from the excreta or urine of the multimammate rat. Anyone who is suspected of being in contact with a Lassa patient needs to be presented to health facilities within a period of 21 days.

Signs and symptoms

The early stages of Lassa fever present symptoms similar to febrile illness such as malaria.

Symptoms of the disease generally include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices. It could also present persistent bleeding from sites of intravenous cannulation.

Early diagnosis and treatment increase a patient’s chances of survival.

Lassa fever is said to spread through direct contact with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rodents; ingesting food and drinks contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats; contact with objects, household items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats, and person-to-person transmission can also occur through contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus and other body fluids of an infected person, particularly in an environment where infection prevention and control practices are not optimal.

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