Lassa fever epidemic hits Nigeria

The government of Rivers State, Nigeria, recently confirmed that it is battling an outbreak of Lassa fever, a highly-lethal hemorrhagic virus carried by rodents.

Dr. Sampson Parker, the state commissioner for health, declared the outbreak to be an epidemic during a recent session with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health and the medical staff of the Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, according to

Parker pushed for all of the state's resources to be used against the threat posed by Lassa fever and asked that a rapid response team be formed for use in the Rivers State.

"May I formally as Commissioner for Health in Rivers State declare that there is Lassa fever epidemic in the State and we must do all we can to tackle the challenge," Parker said, reports.

"I think we have capable hands at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital to deal with the Lassa fever menace in the state," Parker said, according to "This is one of the hospitals in the state and it is our responsibility, whether the incident is in UPTH or not. It is the responsibility of the Rivers State Ministry of Health to see the much we can do. This is a public health challenge that we are facing."

Parker said that the government needed to provide logistics support, including vehicles and equipment, for the rapid response team, and added that special medical kits could be distributed to area hospitals that might see Lassa cases.

The state commissioner called for the federal government to begin an immediate awareness and sensitization campaign that would alert the public to guard against possible exposure.