FAO in Sierra Leone

FAO responds to Lassa Fever Cases in Sierra Leone


Following Lassa fever outbreak in November 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone requested for technical, financial and logistical support from FAO

Accra  Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus. Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces of infected Mastomys rats. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa, but person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in health care settings in the absence of adequate infection prevention and control measures.

About 80% of people who become infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms. In fact, 1 in 5 infections result in severe disease, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen and kidneys, which has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households.

Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria. Following the Lassa outbreak in November 2019 in Sierra Leone, the Government of Sierra Leone requested for technical, financial and logistical support from partners, including FAO, to react to the outbreak. FAO, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded emergency stockpile project, responded with the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, facemask, and coveralls in addition of a financial support for rodent trapping and sample collection.

Today, in an official ceremony, FAO officially handed over to the Government of Sierra Leone the equipment, in presence of Dr Amadu Tejan Jalloh, the Director of the Livestock and Veterinary Services Division, Dr. Vandi Mohamed, Director of Health Security and Emergencies and Mukeh Kenneth Fahnbulleh, the Head of the One Health Secretariat.

Monica Dea, USAID GHSA Advisor was also present at the ceremony and stated that “this is a timely intervention by FAO to support not only the ongoing Lassa Fever outbreak but also to strengthen preparedness capacity of the country”.

The Lassa outbreak experienced by Sierra Leone in 2019 spread across of the country. From 1 January through 17 November 2019, of the 182 suspected cases, ten (10) cases with six (6) deaths (case fatality ratio 60%) have been confirmed for Lassa virus infection[1]. Over the past weeks, however, the number of new cases have dropped.

Healthcare workers involved in invasive care procedures are at increased risk of exposure. They should adhere to standard precautions, and wear protective equipment like gloves, face masks, face shields and aprons when handling suspected Lassa fever patients. Since this last outbreak, FAO has worked with Sierra Leone to ensure better preparedness and to protect the population, namely health care workers in health facilities, who are particularly at risk of contracting the disease, especially where infection prevention and control procedures are not strictly adhered to.


For further information, contact person:


Yanira Santana

Regional Communications and Outreach

Bureau FAO ECTAD Regional West and Central Africa

Email : [email protected]

Phone : +221 33 823 29 14