The World Health Organisation has said that Nigeria accounts for a huge percentage of the Lassa fever deaths that have occurred in West Africa, identifying late diagnosis of Lassa fever patients as the cause.
The health agency, in a statement on Monday, gave an official breakdown of the number of Lassa fever cases in Africa, stating that Lassa fever has killed more than 160 people in West Africa, most of them in Nigeria, since November 2015.
“Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Togo have reported more than 300 cases of Lassa fever and 167 deaths. Nigeria accounts for the majority of the cases with 266 cases and 138 deaths reported in 22 of the country’s 34 provinces as at 21 March 2016. Benin has recorded 51 cases and 25 deaths. Many of these lives could have been saved if a rapid diagnostic test were available so that people could receive treatment early,” the statement read.
Late diagnosis was identified by Dr Pieere Formenty, an expert in haemorrhagic fevers at WHO, as the cause of the death of 60 per cent of patients that have contracted the virus.
“Without early diagnosis and treatment one in five infections result in severe disease, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen and kidneys,” said Formenty, who called for resources to invest in diagnosis that would easily and safely test for Lassa fever the same way malaria and HIV are tested.