Lassa Fever in Children: A Guide for Parents

Lassa fever, an acute viral illness caused by the Lassa virus, poses a significant threat to children in West Africa. While most cases occur in adults, children of all ages are susceptible, and they often experience more severe complications. This article aims to provide parents and caregivers with crucial information about the disease, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.


Lassa fever spreads primarily through contact with infected rodent urine or feces. Children are particularly vulnerable due to their increased exposure to these contaminants while playing outdoors or near agricultural areas. Additionally, person-to-person transmission can occur through bodily fluids, especially in healthcare settings lacking proper infection control measures.


Early symptoms of Lassa fever in children are often non-specific and may resemble common illnesses like malaria or typhoid fever. These include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea and vomiting

As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms like:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding tendencies
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Swollen lymph nodes

These severe symptoms require immediate medical attention.


Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes in children with Lassa fever. Unfortunately, there is no specific vaccine available. However, the antiviral drug ribavirin has shown effectiveness, especially when administered early in the illness. Supportive care, including fluid replacement, electrolyte management, and oxygen therapy, plays a vital role in managing complications and improving survival rates.

Preventing Lassa Fever in Children:

Several measures can significantly reduce the risk of Lassa fever transmission in children:

  • Rodent control: Eliminating rodents from homes and surrounding areas is essential. Sealing potential entry points and storing food securely can help achieve this.
  • Personal hygiene: Washing hands frequently with soap and water, especially after contact with potential contaminants, is crucial.
  • Safe healthcare practices: Healthcare facilities must implement strict infection control measures to prevent person-to-person transmission.

Seeking Medical Attention:

If you suspect your child has symptoms of Lassa fever, immediately seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can significantly improve the chances of a full recovery. Inform the healthcare provider about any potential exposure to rodents or contact with confirmed cases.

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