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Lassa fever outbreak kills 73 in Nigeria as new cases surge

Nigeria is grappling with an outbreak of Lassa fever, which has caused 73 deaths this year as the number of new confirmed cases surged in the past week, according to the country’s Center for Disease Control.

The acute viral hemorrhagic illness is endemic in several West African countries including Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN agency said earlier this month it was scaling up its response to the outbreak, which has spread to 17 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The current outbreak “is more than what we have seen before, it is overwhelming,” Elsie Ilori, incident manager at the NCDC’s Lassa Fever Emergency Operations Centre, said by phone Thursday.

A total of 913 suspected cases have been registered since the start of the year, with Nigeria’s southern Ondo and Edo states most affected, according to NCDC data. The fatality rate in confirmed and probable cases is 21 percent, it showed.

The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces, according to the WHO.

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