WHO reports Lassa fever outbreak in Sierra Leone

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- An outbreak of Lassa fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic disease has been reported from Sierra Leone's Kenema district, the World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed Wednesday.
The Geneva-based body said it had received reports of cases, but the number of deaths was not currently available.
Preliminary laboratory testing performed by WHO collaborating centres, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa confirmed Lassa fever infection.
A team from WHO headquarters and the WHO Country Office was assessing the situation and the need to conduct further investigations, assisting patient management in the isolation units of Kenema hospital, and identifying measures to control the outbreak.
Lassa fever occurs in West Africa more often in the dry, than in the rainy season.
A species of 'mastomys' rodents is known to be a consistent host reservoir for the Lassa virus.
The rats themselves might show no symptoms of the disease, but they shed the virus freely in urine and droppings, and secrete the virus in their saliva.
Humans can contract the disease from other humans via aerosol (coughing), or from direct contact with infected human blood, urine or semen, the WHO warned.
It said that following infection, haemorrhage occurs in various organs such as the stomach, small intestine, kidneys, lungs and brain.
Recommending prompt diagnosis and treatment, WHO warned that person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission could also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures.
The disease is named after the Sierra Leonean town in which the first cases were isolated in 1969.

21 april 2004 08:59:00

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