Lassa Fever -What you need to Know.

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About 2 weeks ago Lassa fever claimed the lives of 2 persons at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); signalling that the disease previously suppressed in other parts of the country is resurfacing.

What is Lassa Fever?

It is a viral hemorrhagic fever (in the same family as Ebola virus disease) found in West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Benin republic. It is transmitted by rodents, commonly the Multimamate Mastomys rat and a person is usually infected by ingesting food contaminated by the rat’s urine or faeces. It can also be contracted by coming in contact with the body fluids of an infected person – blood, urine, saliva, semen.

When a person is infected with the virus, it can last between 6 – 21 days before the person starts showing symptoms. In about 80% of people, there are no symptoms while 1 in 5 infected persons will have severe forms of the disease.

Symptoms

  • Headache
  • General feeling of being unwell.
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea/vomitting
  • Diarrhoea

In severe disease:

  • Facial puffiness
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Bleeding from all orifices
  • Deafness in survivors.

Who is most Affected?

It can affect anyone both male And female and of any age. But those at high risk are those that stay in rural areas where the mastomys rats are found. Those who do not maintain high environmental sanitation and health workers who come in contact with infected persons.

Treatment

There is an anitiviral drug-ribavirine that has been shown to be effective in d treatment of Lassa fever. However, there is no known vaccine for now.

Prevention

  • Ensure environmental sanitation to discourage rodents from entering homes.
  • Storing grains and other food stuff in rodent proof containers.
  • Dispose garbage far from the home
  • Maintain clean households
  • Keep cats.
  • Avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids while caring for sick persons.
  • In hospitals standard infection prevention and control precautions must be practiced like hand washing, respiratory hygiene.

If you suspect anyone has the disease, a response team in LUTH can be contacted. Numbers include 08058019466, 08058744780, 07035521015.

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Lassa Fever -What yo…

by Dr. Anire Chima-Oduko
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