LASSA fever (LF) or Lassa Fever Virus Disease (LFVD) or Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever (LHF) is a member of Arenaviridae virus family (Arenavirus) found inside rodents and rats, basically inside of the multimamate rat (mastomys natalensis) which is the primary host of the disease. It was first discovered in Nigeria in the town of Lassa in Born state in 1969 where it got it’s name from. It affects rodents and occasionally humans, the LHF is similar to Ebola in that it causes instant death. Lassa Fever is endemic in west African regions like Mali, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, cote d’ivoire, Benin.
Mode of transmission of Lassa Fever
Rodents and rats are the vector of the disease, therefore contacts with them brings about the disease. You can also contact Lassa Fever by touching, playing with or cutting up dead rats, also, contact with the feces or urine of rats deposited especially inside food stores or around the house, humans can contact the disease when they come in contact with food or household items continated with rodents excreta. Another method of contacting the disease is through Nosocomial transmission i.e. transmission that occurs as a result of treatment in a hospital usually through primary or secondary contact (I.e. patient to doctor) or absence of adequate infection control measures in hospitals and laboratories. Also, contact with body fluids or blood of an infected person or shaking hands with an infected person can bring about the disease but in a much more lesser case.
Symptoms of Lassa Fever
About 80% cases of Lassa Fever is Asymptomatic I.e. the patient or carrier does not experience any symptoms at all, and this is usually dangerous because when it begins to show symptoms it may already be too late for the patient. Early signs of Lassa Fever include high fever, severe headache, malaise, then later, sore throat, nausea, continuous stooling and vomiting, abdominal pain, myalgia (muscle pain), after few more days then edema (swelling), hypertension, bleeding and then death. The incubation period of Lassa Fever (I.e. the time it takes for the disease to start manifesting is 21 days, therefore, a suspected Lassa Fever patient is to be quarantined for 21 days.
Method of prevention
Ensure that you don’t eat contaminated foods, cooked and uncooked foods should be properly stored and covered, make sure to wash your hands with liquid soap and antiseptics. Also, rat traps and rodenticides should be used in all homes, clear surrounding bushes and close doors and windows very well. Buying food along the road or in traffic should also be stopped because we know very little about their storage procedures. Report suspected cases of Lassa Fever in the hospital to prevent spread while medical personnels should use mask and protective gloves when treating patients.
Treatment of Lassa fever
Many times, because of its symptoms, Lassa Fever is usually misdiagnosed as malaria or typhoid and as a result many patients fail to receive appropriate medical treatment. Vaccination of infected patients is currently unavailable for humans but oral ribavirin is administered within the first few days of the disease onset, so this way, it helps to drastically reduce the effects in the early cause of the disease.
In conclusion, Lassa Fever outbreak has claimed so many lives in the course of the past 6 weeks in Nigeria claiming about 35 deaths in 76 suspected cases. 12 states in Nigeria have been affected including Gombe, Rivers, Abuja, Plateau, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Edo, Oyo, Imo and Lagos. It claimed a doctor’s life in portharcourt.