Nigeria reports double outbreaks of viral Ebola-like illness & other mystery disease

Hundreds of cases for both diseases have been confirmed.

Matthias Ang | February 14, 2020, 01:07 PM

China is not the only country experiencing the outbreak of a new virus.

In West Africa, Nigeria is currently experiencing two viral outbreaks of an unknown disease and Lassa fever, both The Independent and Al Jazeera reported.

472 cases of Lassa fever, 104 cases of mystery disease

Lassa fever is an Ebola-like haemorrhagic fever.

Since the outbreak in end-Dec. 2019, there have been 472 confirmed cases, a death toll of 70 and 1,708 suspected cases, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) stated.

As for the mystery illness, Nigerian media outlets The Guardian and Daily Post reported that the death toll stood at 15, with 104 people infected, since it first broke out on Jan. 29.

Lassa fever is endemic to West Africa

According to Al Jazeera, Lassa fever is endemic to West Africa and received its name from its initial identification in the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria in 1969.

It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with approximately 5,000 deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated.

Additionally, while the virus shows similar symptoms to Ebola, both viruses belong to different viral families, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ebola belongs to the Filoviridae family while Lassa fever belongs to the Arenaviridae family.

80 per cent of people infected with Lassa fever are asymptomatic

WHO further highlighted that 80 per cent of the people who are infected with the virus are asymptomatic, with the incubation period of the virus ranging from six to 21 days.

However, for those who do show symptoms, these may include fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain.

In severe cases, the face may swell. Bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may also develop.

The disease is primarily transmitted through exposure to the faeces or urine of rats.

As such, rural communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions are particularly susceptible to the virus.

However, the disease is also treatable with the drug ribavirin, if it is given early during the course of the illness.

Mystery illness does not appear to be Ebola, Lassa or Covid-19

As for the new mystery illness, Nigeria's Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, stated that the disease had been tested in the laboratory and did not appear to be Ebola, Lassa fever or the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the Daily Post further reported.

The first few victims of the unknown disease had also allegedly died within 48 hours of contact.

Symptoms of the disease include headache, internal heat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ache, weakness of the body and a swollen stomach.

Ehanire has raised the possibility that the illness might be the result of chemicals, The Guardian further reported.

As per the health minister:

“For now, medical investigations have not detected the exact ailment, but there are indications suggesting that the chemical substance being used for fishing in the affected community could be responsible. But that is subject to outcome of further investigation."

Top image from Satanoid via Flickr