‘Hygienic practices’ needed to contain Lassa fever
The World Health Organisation said an “urgent and intense” response is needed to contain the viral disease.
At least 78 people have been confirmed dead and 353 are infected in the outbreak.
A further 766 people are suspected to be infected and 3,126 contacts have been identified and are being monitored by the Nigeria Centre for Disease
The increase in new cases of Lassa fever is of concern and challenges around the provision of adequate resources for managing the outbreak remain
The virus, which has been likened to the Black Death, can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat as there is currently no effective vaccine against it.
The World Health Organisation said: “The increase in new cases of Lassa fever is of concern and challenges around the provision of adequate resources for managing the outbreak remain.
“The large number and wide geographical spread of cases requires an urgent and intensive response, including support for infection prevention and control, case management, and laboratory testing, from national and international partners in order to bring the outbreak under control.”
Lassa fever is spreading across Nigeria
The virus begins like the flu for the first couple of weeks, with people experiencing mild symptoms such as fever, headaches and general weaknesses.
But in the most severe of cases it can damage blood vessels and organs, whereby bleeding can occur through the gums, nose and eyes.
Death can follow within two weeks of the virus taking effect.
Dr Charlie Weller, head of vaccinations for the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC: “Most people who catch Lassa will have only mild symptoms such as fever, headache and general weakness. They may have none at all.
“However, in severe cases, it can mimic another deadly hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, casing bleeding through the nose, mouth and other parts of the body.”
The doctor said progress had “stalled” despite it being likely a vaccine could be found.
The outbreak of Lassa has been ‘unprecedented’
“Vaccine development is a long, complex and costly process. This is especially true for emerging epidemic diseases, where a prototype vaccine can usually only be tested where there is an outbreak.”