Lassa fever death rates in Nigeria higher than expected

Story highlights

  • More than 130 people have now died from a growing outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria
  • Outbreaks occur most years, but death rates in this outbreak are higher than expected
  • The virus is spreading at unprecedented rates, with 22 states now reporting cases

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(CNN)More than 130 people are suspected to have died from a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria, according to statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The disease can cause fever and haemorrhaging of various parts of the body -- including the eyes and nose -- and can be spread through contact with an infected rat. Person to person transmission is also possible, albeit less common.
For people witnessing the symptoms, alarm bells may ring and raise fears of Ebola -- but this is not Ebola.
    West Africa as a region is seeing a flare-up of the disease, but Nigeria -- where Lassa fever was first discovered in 1969 -- is experiencing much higher mortality rates than usual.
    On average, Lassa fever is deadly in 1% of all individuals infected, with higher rates of 15% morbidity among people hospitalized for the illness, but the current outbreak in Nigeria has seen more than 50% of those affected dying from their infection.
    According to NCDC's latest report, dated 14 March 2016, the total number of reported cases is 254 (129 of which confirmed by lab tests) and the total number of deaths (suspected, probable and confirmed) is 137, with a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 53.9%.<