Aim: To review the progress of Lassa fever over the last 50 years.
Methods: Information about Lassa fever from existing literature from journal publications, public health releases and internet search was analyzed.
Results: Since 1969 when Lassa fever was first reported in Lassa community in North Eastern Nigeria, several outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in different parts of Nigeria and several West African countries, with spread to new geographical areas. The true public health burden, transmission cycle, pathogenesis and clinical course of the disease is not fully understood. Limited diagnostics and therapeutics, lack of vaccine for prevention, weak health infrastructure and low human capacity in the region poses great challenges to the management and control of the disease. Over the years more knowledge has emerged and great advances have been made in the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Despite the gains in Lassa fever research and development, much is left to be done.
Conclusion: Strengthening the clinical, laboratory and public health infrastructure and workforce in the Lassa endemic areas; community engagement to promote awareness and education about Lassa fever prevention and control; improving capacity for early and accurate diagnosis; optimizing case management through provision of guidelines, provision of equipment for enhanced supportive care; intensive effort at development of optimal diagnostics, new therapeutics and vaccines are all required to reduce the public health burden of Lassa fever in West Africa.