Despite affecting up to 300,000 people a year across West Africa, and causing more than 5,000 deaths annually, Lassa fever is a poorly understood disease that is challenging to diagnose and treat.
This year marks 50 years since the identification of the virus causing Lassa fever in the village of Lassa, in Nigeria. It is a type of viral haemorrhagic fever that is endemic in West Africa countries of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Benin.
“It has been half a century since Lassa fever was discovered in northern Nigeria, but healthcare workers in West Africa still urgently need appropriate equipment and training to safely manage patients of all ages affected by the disease,” Dr Hilde De Clerck said, speaking at the first ever international conference on Lassa fever, held on 16 and 17 January in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Research into better tools for timely diagnosis and treatment is also necessary to save more lives in the future,” added Dr De Clerck, who presented MSF’s experience in managing Lassa fever in a paediatric reference centre in Godoma (Bo), Sierra Leone.