Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus.
It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta.
Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control.
Popular in certain parts of West Africa, the virus was not identified until 1969. It is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the virus family Arenaviridae.
Here are Five Things You Should Know About Lassa Fever
The Symptoms of LASSA Fever include fever, general weakness, and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow.
In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop.
Shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation, and coma may be seen in the later stages. Deafness occurs in 25% of patients who survive the disease. Death usually occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases.
Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected rats.
Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever.
Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas, especially in communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions.
Definitive Diagnosis of the Virus requires testing.
Treatment and Vaccines
The antiviral drug Ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness.
Prevention and Control
Prevention of Lassa fever relies on good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering homes.
Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households and keeping cats.