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Lassa Fever in Nigeria

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

What is Lassa fever?

Lassa fever is a viral illness that usually causes mild symptoms, including slight fever, weakness, and headache. However, in some people it can cause more serious symptoms, like bleeding gums, eyes, or nose; difficulty breathing; repeated vomiting; facial swelling; pain in the chest, back, and abdomen; shock; and even death.

Key Points

  • There is an outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria.
  • Lassa fever is a disease that is spread primarily by rats.
  • Travelers to Nigeria should avoid contact with rats, especially rat urine and feces, and keep their accommodations or campsites clean.

What is the current situation

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control has reported an ongoing outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria that began in early 2018. The outbreak has been confirmed in at least 17 states with over 40 deaths reported. Most cases have been found in Edo and Ondo in southwest Nigeria states.

How is Lassa fever virus spread

Lassa fever is spread primarily by rats. Rats that carry the Lassa fever virus live in homes and areas where food is stored. People usually become ill with Lassa fever after direct contact with rat droppings or urine and through touching objects or eating food contaminated with rat droppings or urine.

Lassa fever may also spread when a person comes into contact with an infected person’s blood, tissue, or body fluids, especially when that person is seriously ill.

What can travelers do to prevent Lassa fever?

Travelers to Nigeria should avoid contact with rats, especially rat urine and feces, and take precautions to keep their accommodations or campsites clean. Travelers should also wash hands often, and avoid contact with people who are sick.

Travelers who develop serious symptoms consistent with Lassa fever should seek immediate medical care OR should contact a doctor right away. 

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