Epidemiology and Management of Lassa Fever in the West African Sub-Region: Overcoming the Socio-cultural Challenges

  • Godsent Chichebem Isiguzo
  • Michael Onyebuchi Iroezindu


Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever endemic in West Africa, especially in: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is transmitted by the multimammate rat Mastomy natalensis, though additional rodent reservoir may contribute to infections. The virus was first identified in 1969 in the town of Lassa, North-East Nigeria from where it derived its name. Since then, several epidemics have occurred in endemic communities, including recent outbreaks with higher fatalities. There is evidence of expanding epidemiology within Africa, imported cases in Europe and North America, and potential for bioterrorism remains a global concern. In this Chapter, we describe the epidemiology and management of Lassa fever in the West African sub-region with a focus on overcoming the socio-cultural challenges. In memory of several healthcare workers who have lost their lives while providing care for Lassa fever patients, we start with a case vignette that describes the confusion and sadness the disease and its complications often bring. The chapter then goes on to discuss the epidemiology, virology, pathogenesis, clinical and laboratory characteristics of the disease with a highlight of the sociocultural challenges that perpetuate the epidemics of Lassa fever in most endemic communities 50 years after its characterisation. The chapter ends with suggestions on how to improve surveillance, prevention and control.


Challenges Epidemiology Lassa fever Management Socio-cultural West Africa 



This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Udenna Ama (1970–2009) and all health care workers in Africa who have lost their lives treating patients with Lassa fever.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Godsent Chichebem Isiguzo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Onyebuchi Iroezindu
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of MedicineFederal Teaching Hospital AbakalikiEbonyi StateNigeria
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.College of MedicineUniversity of NigeriaEnuguNigeria
  4. 4.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Nigeria Teaching HospitalEnuguNigeria

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