Lassa Fever among Children in Eastern Province, Sierra Leone: A 7-year Retrospective Analysis (2012-2018)

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Nov 23;104(2):585-592. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0773. Online ahead of print.


Pediatric Lassa fever (LF) usually presents as a nonspecific febrile illness, similar to other endemic diseases in countries like Sierra Leone, where LF is considered to be hyperendemic. The nonspecificity of presentation and lack of research have made it difficult to fully understand best practices for pediatric management. We aim to describe clinical characteristics of hospitalized pediatric patients suspected or diagnosed with LF and assess factors associated with hospital outcomes among those with LF antigen-positive results. We conducted a 7-year retrospective cohort study using routine data for all children younger than 18 years admitted at the Kenema Government Hospital's LF ward. A total of 292 children with suspected or confirmed LF were analyzed. Overall, mortality was high (21%). Children with antigen-positive results had a high case fatality rate of 63% (P < 0.01). In univariate analyses, children who presented with unexplained bleeding (odds ratio [OR]: 3.58; 95% CI: 1.08-11.86; P = 0.040) and confusion (altered sensorium) (OR: 5.37; 95% CI: 1.34-21.48; P = 0.020) had increased odds of death. Abnormal serum levels of alanine aminotransferase (P = 0.001), creatinine (P = 0.004), and potassium (P = 0.003) were associated with increased likelihood of death in these children. Treatment with ribavirin was not significantly associated with survival (P = 0.916). Our findings provide insights into current pediatric LF clinical presentation and management. More evidence-based, high-quality research in creating predictive algorithms of antigen-positivity and hospital outcomes is needed in the management of pediatric LF.