Forty people have died in Nigeria in a suspected outbreak of Lassa fever in 10 states across the country, Health Minister Isaac Adewole said Friday. “The total number (of suspected cases) reported is 86 and 40 deaths, with a mortality rate of 43.2 percent,” Adewole told a news conference in the capital, Abuja.

The minister said that so far, laboratory tests have confirmed that 22 of the 86 suspected cases were Lassa fever and results were expected on the remainder. Seven of the affected states are in the north — Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Plateau and Gombe — while the remaining three are in the south — Rivers, Edo and Oyo — he added.

The first case of the disease was recorded last November in Bauchi state. Cases were then reported in Kano and elsewhere. According to the WHO, Lassa fever is an acute haemorrhagic illness which belongs to the arenarvirus family of viruses, which also includes the Ebola-like Marburg virus. People with Lassa fever do not display symptoms in 80 percent of cases but it can cause serious symptoms and death in the remainder. FULL REPORT