Breaking News: What we know about Lassa Fever in Sierra Leone so far: 3 dead, 7 diagnosed and contact tracing has begun

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A 31-year-old dutch medical doctor Wouter Nolet and two others have died from Lassa Fever after contracting the virus at Masanga Hospital in Tonkolili District. Masanga Hospital is a 120-bed facility that serves 440,000 people in Northern Sierra Leone.

Dr. Nolet (center)

Nolet moved to Sierra Leone to a year ago, he died in Holland. The World Health Organization has not declared an emergency, neither has the Ministry of Health but measures have been put into place to contain the spread of this latest outbreak.

This is not the first Lassa Fever outbreak in Sierra Leone or West Africa.

Lassa fever is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, acute viral illness. It is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Neighboring countries are also at risk, as the animal vector for Lassa virus, the “multimammate rat” (Mastomys natalensis) is distributed throughout the region. The illness was discovered in 1969 and is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with approximately 5,000 deaths.

So far 7 people have been diagnosed, and 3 have died according to Sierra Leone’s Dr. Asad Naveed. He reports that the Ministry of Health has begun case tracing to identify others who may have come in contact with the Fever.

Nine people who were evacuated including, Ductch and British nationals, and a Sierra Leonean. A doctor in the UK said that “Lassa fever does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low. “
Below is a message from Sierra Leone’s District Medical Office in Tonkolili where a Dutch Doctor died.

Lassa Fever Health Poster from Sierra Leone’s Medical & Dental Association (Source: Facebook)

‼Emergency Response update on Lassa Fever in Tonkolili District

“With confirmed cases of Lassa Fever in Tonkolili, the District has reactivated the District Emergency Operation Center with its District Medical Officer as Incident Manager.

Today Saturday 23rd November, the District Health Management Team together with a national team of expert led by the Director of Primary Health Care, Dr. Alie Wurie conveyed an in depth investigation at the Mansaga Hospital where 2 of the probable index cases of Lassa Fever were said to have been treated by a team of medical practitioners at Masanga.

Another meeting of key partners, DHMT and the National Team which was dispatched to support the district was later conveyed at the DHMT where the DEOC was activated and sitrep was eventually populated where the history of the outbreak was clearly hived out together with challenges and recommendations made to the response.

Social Mobilization/Communication:

•A brief knowledge and Attitude and Practices assessment was conducted in the affected communities

•Communication Plan Adapted

• Information Education and Communication Materials were distributed with Masanga Hospital and the affected communities.

•Engagement with affected communities

•A synchronized press briefing will be held in Magburaka Town and Freetown

• Radio discussion programmes are underway to reach communities with key messages thereby preventing the spread of the disease

The National Team consisted of Dr. Alie Wurie who is the team lead, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Clinical, Dr. Bash Taqi, Dr. Kanu, Surveillance, Dr. Leno, Ministry of Agriculture and representatives from the Health Education Division, WHO, NGO Partners etc. “

—– Social Mobilization/ Communication Team in Tonkolili —