Deadly Lassa-fever outbreak tests Nigeria's revamped health agency

Reforms put in place after Ebola epidemic in West Africa have built Nigeria's capacity to diagnose diseases and track their spread.

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An unprecedented outbreak of a deadly viral disease in Nigeria is showcasing the newfound might of the country’s public-health agency. Reforms put in place since a devastating Ebola epidemic struck West Africa in 2014 have transformed how Nigeria responds to infectious disease — including the current Lassa-virus outbreak. Since 1 January, Lassa fever has sickened 365 people and killed 81, making it the country's largest recorded outbreak of the virus. But public-health experts say that the toll would be much worse had Nigeria not strengthened its Centre for Disease Control over the past few years. The agency, Nigeria’s first line of defence against disease outbreaks, has grown from roughly 30 physicians in 2011 to more than 130 epidemiologists, microbiologists and other specialists today. And it is deploying sophisticated data-management tools and building diagnostic labs to monitor the current outbreak and prepare for the future.

By Amy Maxmen, Nature News


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