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Poor Housing Quality Increases Risk of Rodent Infestation and Lassa Fever in Refugee Camps of Sierra Leone

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  • 1 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; Disease Control & Vector Biology Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom; Merlin, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Merlin, London, United Kingdom; Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
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Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic fever endemic in parts of West Africa, is a severe febrile illness transmitted to humans by the rodent Mastomys natalensis. To determine risk of Lassa fever in households in Sierra Leonean refugee camps, we analyzed the spatial relationships between households with a Lassa case and focal locations of potential rodent habitats. Quality and hygiene factors of households were assessed to determine possible risk factors for household rodent infestation and occurrence of Lassa fever. The odds to have a rat burrow were higher in case houses than in control houses (OR 24, 95% CI 6.0–93). Case houses scored significantly worse in the quality of housing and external hygiene. These findings suggest that risk of Lassa fever in refugee camps depends on individual housing quality and the hygiene of the immediate surrounding environment.

Author Notes

Reprint requests: Matthias Borchert, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK. E-mail: Matthias.Borchert@lshtm.ac.uk.
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