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Lassa fever fact sheet
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  • Description:
    What is Lassa fever? -- Where is Lassa fever found? -- How many people become infected? -- In what animal host is Lassa virus maintained? -- How do humans get Lassa fever? -- What are the symptoms of Lassa fever? -- How is the disease diagnosed in the laboratory? -- Are there complications after recovery? -- What proportion of people die from the illness? -- How is Lassa fever treated? -- What groups are at risk for getting the illness? -- How is Lassa fever prevented? -- What needs to be done to address the threat of 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%.

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