Epidemiology

The association with the Arenavirus group helped to orient the studies in Africa, relating to determination of the transmission cycle of the Lassa virus. Predictably, like its congeners, it was determined to be an infection of small rodents, usually house-frequenting rodents. Praomys (Mastomys) natalen-sis in sub-Saharan, equatorial, and southern Africa is the most common house-frequenting rodent and has been found infected to varying degrees in several regions in Africa afflicted with Lassa (McCormick et al. 1987a,b). The infection in the rodent is persistent, with virus in the urine a common feature. As epidemics occurred in other localities in Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone over the course of several years, it became apparent that Lassa virus is widespread in West Africa and also may be found in East Africa (McCormick et al. 1987). Studies of distribution are far from complete.

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