Four people have died and more than 150 people have been infected with a mysterious illness in Nigeria.

So far all the cases have been found in Sokoto, in the north-west of the country, and an investigation is underway by health officials into the cause of the outbreak. Patients have had fever, vomiting and abdominal swelling among other symptoms.

The head of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Jide Idris, said that a rapid response team had been sent to the region as a result of the cases, having been first notified of children suffering from the illness on March 21.

Most of the patients are children aged between four and 13 but there have been adults who have also been affected among a total of 164 cases. “The NCDC deployed a National Rapid Response Team to work with the State Ministry of Health to further investigate and respond to this incident. So far, a total of 164 suspected cases have been identified,” he told a press conference, reported local media.

“Unfortunately, four deaths have been recorded among the suspected cases. A similar incident was previously documented in 2023, also without a definitive diagnosis.” He continued: “Two suspected cases are currently receiving care in Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital in Sokoto, and one case was discharged on account of improved symptoms. Four other suspected cases are also on admission at the Isa General Hospital, while about 130 cases are also receiving care either within the Primary Healthcare Centres or home care in the affected LGA (local government area).”

Dr Idris said that blood samples among patients have shown high levels of the metals lead and chromium leading to the investigation looking into local mining and agricultural practices. He added: “In this regard, various samples of materials have also been taken and dispatched for analyses, including blood, abdominal fluids, environmental samples like soil and water, locally grown food produce including vegetables and grains, substances and ingredients used for food and drinks, pesticides and chemicals used in local guns.”

It comes as Nigeria is suffering from an outbreak of Lassa fever with more than 150 deaths registered in the country this year after hundreds died from the disease in 2023. Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease caused by the Lassa virus. It is primarily transmitted to humans either through direct contact with infected Mastomys rodents, or through food or household items contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected rodents, explains the World Health Organisation.

It states: “The virus is transmitted to humans through cuts and scratches or inhaled via dust particles in the air. Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids, but this is rare. Lassa fever can spread in healthcare settings without early recognition and treatment and without adequate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.”




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