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Global Health
December 18, 2018

Nigerian Lassa Fever Outbreak Caused by Rodents

JAMA. 2018;320(23):2412. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19084

A common African rodent is to blame for an abnormal increase in Lassa fever cases during a 2018 outbreak in Nigeria, according to a recent analysis. The data quelled concerns that the surge in cases resulted from a new, more virulent strain of the virus that could spread quickly among humans.

Lassa virus is typically transmitted via contact with infected rodents (Mastomys natalensis), either through consuming the animals or being exposed to their saliva or urine. The hemorrhagic illness can also spread from person to person through bodily fluids, as has been documented in hospital settings. The only available therapy is the antiviral drug ribavirin, and no vaccine is currently approved.