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Lassa fever: The politics of an emerging disease and the scope for One Health

This paper is about the politics of knowledge and disease control for Lassa fever, a zoonotic viral haemorrhagic fever which is endemic in parts of West Africa. Implications extend beyond West Africa as Lassa virus has been classified as a ‘Category A’ pathogen, meaning it is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous organisms and a potential bioweapon. Unusually for a Category A pathogen it also causes endemic human disease with public health implications.

As a rodent borne virus, Lassa fever is of particular interest from a One Health perspective. The interplay between security, public health and One Health approaches are explored through ethnographic and interview based research in Kenema, Sierra Leone, a long-term treatment and research hub. ‘Biodefence dollars’ have provided the majority of recent funding in Sierra Leone and have created opportunities for both local and international actors to address a neglected disease. Yet the increased resources have been limited in important ways, highlighting gaps between national public health needs and the implications of expanding biosecurity applications in global health and development.

Geography: Africa
Reference: Wilkinson, A. 2015. Lassa fever: The politics of an emerging disease and the scope for One Health, STEPS Working Paper 83, Brighton: STEPS Centre.