Epidemiological characteristics of Lassa fever cases in Liberia: a retrospective analysis of surveillance data, 2019-2020

Author: Jetoh Ralph


Ralph Weah Jetoh , Shruti Malik , Bode Shobayo , Fahn Taweh , Trokon Omarley Yeabah , Josiah George , Burgess Gbelee , Julius Teahton , Francis Jaryan , Momo Tegli, Chukwuma David Umeokonkwo , Jane MaCauley

Journal details:

International Journal of Infectious Diseases

International Journal of Infectious Diseases (2022), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2022.07.006

Publication Date: July 7, 2022



Liberia is endemic to Lassa fever (LF) and has the largest reported per capita incidence of LF patients in the West African region. Cases of the disease increased unprecedentedly in 2019 and 2020, characterized by a geographical drift in epidemiology and seasonal variation of occurrence. This study aims to describe the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of LF in Liberia from 2019 to 2020.


A retrospective study was conducted on cases of LF confirmed at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory from January 2019 to December 2020. Medical records were reviewed, and epidemiological and clinical data were collected in an organized manner. Descriptive and inferential statistics were carried out using Epi Info (version


A total of 382 suspected LF cases were reported, of which 103 were laboratory-confirmed, yielding a case positivity rate of 27% (103/382). The median age of the LF cases was 20 (IQR: 9–30). Children younger than 18 years accounted for 40.8% (42/103) of the cases and healthcare workers’ cases constituted 7.7% of the cases. Bong, Nimba, and Grand Bass accounted for 87.4% of the cases with cases in new counties like Lofa, Margibi, and Grand Kru. Hemorrhage (aOR:10.2; 95% CI: 3.11–33.81), patients who did not receive ribavirin (aOR: 4.4; 95% CI: 1.12–17.57, P = 0.034), and patients aged 40 years or older (aOR: 6.2; 95% CI: 1.19–32.53, P = 0.049) were associated with LF mortality.


The LF cases in 2019 and 2020 had a high case fatality rate and spread to new counties that had not previously reported LF. The disease occurred during most of the rainy season instead of the usual dry season. There is an urgent need to lower morbidity and mortality, improve early presentation to the hospital, and early initiation of appropriate medical care.