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Lassa Fever Outbreak Kills Dozens in Nigeria

Posted by feww on February 27, 2012

Forty fatalities including 2 medical personnel from Lassa fever outbreak

About 400 hundred cases of the acute viral illness have been detected in 12 Nigerian states sine Mid January,  said  the country’s Minister of State for Health, 10 percent of which were fatal.

Disaster Calendar 2012 – February 27

[February 27, 2012]  Mass die-offs resulting from human impact and the planetary response to the anthropogenic assault could occur by early 2016.  SYMBOLIC COUNTDOWN: 1,479 Days Left to the ‘Worst Day’ in Human History

  • Nigeria.   An outbreak of Lassa fever, an acute viral illness, has sickened about 400 people in 12 Nigerian states, killing at least 40 including two medical workers, a report said.
    • The areas stricken by the recent outbreak are Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau, Ebonyi, Taraba, Yobe, Ondo, Rivers, Gombe, Anambra, Delta and Lagos states.

Lassa Virus. Source: CDC

Arenavirus. Lassa fever is present in West Africa. The reservoir of Lassa virus are rodents and humans become infected through contact with the excreta of infected rats. While about 80% of the infections go with no symptoms, the remaining patients develop severe multi-system disease and up to 15% of the hospitalized cases may die. Early treatment with the antiviral drug ribavirin is effective, and infection is prevented through good hygiene conditions.  Source: European Center for Disease Prevention and Control

What is Lassa fever?

Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa. The illness was discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria, West Africa. The cause of the illness was found to be Lassa virus, named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases originated. The virus, a member of the virus family Arenaviridae, is a single-stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic, or animal-borne.

In areas of Africa where the disease is endemic (that is, constantly present), Lassa fever is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. While Lassa fever is mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80% of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20% have a severe multisystem disease. Lassa fever is also associated with occasional epidemics, during which the case-fatality rate can reach 50%.

What are the symptoms of Lassa fever?

Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria (protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis. Because the symptoms of Lassa fever are so varied and nonspecific, clinical diagnosis is often difficult.

What proportion of people die from the illness?

Approximately 15%-20% of patients hospitalized for Lassa fever die from the illness. However, overall only about 1% of infections with Lassa virus result in death. The death rates are particularly high for women in the third trimester of pregnancy, and for fetuses, about 95% of which die in the uterus of infected pregnant mothers [causing spontaneous abortion.] [Source: CDC]

Schmallenberg Virus Update:

  • UK.  ” Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 74 farms. Five of the positive cases have been diagnosed in  cattle, 69 in sheep, and none to date in other species. So far, none of the affected farms have reported importing animals during 2011 from the affected areas in mainland Europe. Positive cases of SBV virus have now been identified on the Isle of Wight and in Wiltshire, West Berkshire and Gloucestershire. This is in addition to the counties in the east and south of England which have previously had cases identified, namely Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Cornwall,” AHVLA reported.
    • Some British farmers have reportedly lost 20 per cent of their lambs since the disease arrived in the UK early January.
  • Germany.  “In Germany animals from 737 holdings have been tested positive for ‛Schmallenberg virus’ so far. The cases occurred in 47 cattle holdings, 653 sheep holdings and 37 goat holdings. Affected federal states are North Rhine-Westphalia (25 cattle, 236 sheep, 11 goat holdings), Lower Saxony (10 cattle, 104 sheep, 5 goat holdings), Hesse (1 cattle, 80 sheep holdings, 5 goat holdings), Schleswig-Holstein (5 cattle, 81 sheep, 1 goat holdings), Rhineland-Palatinate (1 Bison, 3 cattle, 35 sheep, 4 goat holdings), Baden-Wuerttemberg (1 cattle, 13 sheep, 5 goat holdings), Brandenburg (15 sheep holdings), Thuringia (24 sheep holdings, 2 goat holdings), Saxony-Anhalt (19 sheep holdings, 2 goat holding), Hamburg (1 cattle, 5 sheep holdings), Bavaria (13 sheep holdings), Saxony (20 sheep holdings), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (5 sheep holdings, 1 goat holding), Saarland (2 sheep holdings, 1 goat holding) and Berlin (1 sheep holding)FLI reported.
  • Rest of Europe.   Updated figures for February NOT available. Estimates range from about 2,500 to 5,000 cases (about 2,000 affected farms) in the Benelux countries (Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands), France and Italy.
  • [NOTE: In all probability, many more countries in Europe and elsewhere have been hit by the Schmallenberg virus, but the disease is not yet reportable and no stats are currently available.]

A suspected victim of Schmallenberg virus. Lambs infected with the virus are  either stillborn or have deformities so horrific they cannot survive. Image source: DWHC

Global Disasters: Links, Forecasts and Background

Schmallenberg Virus Links

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