The basic ecology of Lassa fever appears to involve enzootic transmission of virus in commensal populations of a single murine species, Mastomys natalensis. Virus may spill over from the rodent cycle to man by various routes. Secondary spread between humans may occur within domiciliary groups, and persons infected within the community who develop clinical disease may introduce the virus into hospital and begin a cycle of nosocomial infection.Between 1969, when Lassa fever was first described, and June 1975, the disease was recognized on 9 discrete occasions, affecting 114 persons. Over one-third of these infections were acquired by person-to-person spread within hospitals. In only one outbreak (in Sierra Leone) were the majority of cases acquired in the community. Recent observations have indicated hyperendemic disease in eastern Sierra Leone. Cases have occurred in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and serological evidence exists for activity of the virus elsewhere in West and Central Africa. Seasonal factors appear to play a role in the appearance of human cases. Attack rates have been higher in adults than in children. The source of infection and potential routes of virus transmission in the various epidemics are discussed, and perspectives for future epidemiological research are presented.