ABUJA, Nigeria

A total of 22 people in Nigeria have died from a Lassa fever outbreak since January, authorities said Saturday.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigerian agency responsible for the management of disease outbreaks, said 102 cases have been detected in Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Enugu, Taraba and Bauchi states since the beginning of the year.

The World Health Organization classifies Lassa fever as an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus, an arenavirus emerging with the contamination of foods by infected by rodent urine.

The disease was first discovered in northeastern Borno state in 1969 after a white missionary female fell sick, according to the Health Ministry in Borno.

Lassa fever is endemic in many African countries — including Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Togo and probably the northern part of Cameroon.

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