MONROVIA, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Liberian authorities on Wednesday confirmed 22 deaths have been recorded across the country following the outbreak of Lassa fever since January.
In a statement, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia said the west African country had seen an increase in the outbreak with 81 suspected cases recorded so far.
However, 67 out of the 81 suspected cases tested negative following laboratory examination, according to the statement.
The Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus.
The outbreak has so far occurred in Bong, Margibi, Nimba, and Montserrado -- four counties out of Liberia's 15 counties.
The Liberian health authorities decried the high death rate, saying it was mostly caused by sick people coming to health facilities late for medical examination.
"Although Lassa Fever is not new to Liberia, it is a deadly viral disease that requires urgent attention," the official statement said.
Humans usually become infected with the Lassa virus from exposure to urine or feces of infected mastomys rats. Other than common preventive measures such as washing hands regularly, the World Health Organization has recommended keeping cats.