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Understanding the cryptic nature of Lassa fever in West Africa

Lassa fever (LF) is increasingly recognized by global health institutions as an important rodent-borne disease with severe impacts on some of West Africa’s poorest communities. However, our knowledge of LF ecology, epidemiology and distribution is limited, which presents barriers to both short-term disease forecasting and prediction of long-term impacts of environmental change on Lassa virus (LASV) zoonotic transmission dynamics. Here, we synthesize current knowledge to show that extrapolations from past research have produced an incomplete picture of the incidence and distribution of LF, with negative consequences for policy planning, medical treatment and management interventions. Although the recent increase in LF case reports is likely due to improved surveillance, recent studies suggest that future socio-ecological changes in West Africa may drive increases in LF burden. Future research should focus on the geographical distribution and disease burden of LF, in order to improve its integration into public policy and disease control strategies.

Geography: West Africa
Reference: Gibb R, Moses LM, Redding DW, Jones KE. 2017. Understanding the cryptic nature of Lassa fever in West Africa. Pathog Glob Health, 111(6):276-288.