According to the Center for disease control and Prevention (CDC), there is an estimated number of 100,000-300,000 reported cases of Lassa fever in West Africa and approximately 5,000 deaths.
Here are a few key points you should know about the disease.
What is Lassa Fever
Lassa fever was first discovered in Nigeria in 1969. It was named after the state it was first discovered in. It is an acute viral infection that typically occurs in West Africa. It is habitually seen in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, but can also be found in other countries. The WHO defines Lassa fever as an “acute hemorrhagic fever.”
How is it spread
The Lassa virus is carried in rodents (especially rats), and transmitted to humans through direct contact, exposure to the urine, feces, saliva, and blood, of an infected rodent. It can also be transmitted through eating or drinking foods that have been contaminated by the virus, or the actual consumption of an infected rodent. Transmission can also be airborne, through human-to-human contact (usually via bodily fluids, particularly in hospitals); or through contaminated beddings, and items of clothing.
What are its signs and symptoms
Lassa fever can be challenging to diagnose because of its vague signs and symptoms that mimic other infections, and illnesses (e.g., malaria, bacterial infections, Ebola, etc.). The commonest signs and symptoms are malaise, headache, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, myalgia, abdominal & chest pain. More severe manifestations include hearing loss, hemorrhage (bleeding), tremors, respiratory distress, and encephalitis (inflammation of brain tissue). If not treated promptly, Lassa fever virus can lead to multi-organ failure, and eventually death. An individual can be infected, and not show any sign or symptoms for at least 1-3 weeks (incubation period).
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines for the prevention of Lassa fever. However, Lassa fever is treated with Ribavirin. An antiviral medication that is most effective if administered during the early phases of the illness, maintenance therapy (fluid administration), electrolyte therapy, hemodynamic monitoring, and oxygenation management can be used to aid recovery.
Lassa fever is prevented by washing hands regularly, especially before handling food. Keeping your surroundings clean. Storing food items in containers, and lids that cannot be penetrated by rodents, cooking all foods thoroughly.
Lassa fever can be controlled and prevented by raising awareness and educating the public about the infection, emphasizing key points such as the importance of early detection and treatment, the importance of hand washing, and keeping a clean environment. It is also important to educate healthcare professionals on the importance of using personal protective equipment’s (PPE) to prevent nosocomial transmission of communicable diseases.
Featured image source: www.infectioncontrol.tips
- Isa, S., Okwute, A., Iraoyah, K., Nathan, S., Simji, G., Okolo, M., . . . Isa, D. (2016). Postexposure prophylaxis for Lassa fever: Experience from a recent outbreak in Nigeria. Nigerian Medical Journal, 57(4), 246. doi:10.4103/0300-1652.188362
- Mofolorunsho, K. C. (2016). Outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria: measures for prevention and control. Pan African Medical Journal,23. doi:10.11604/pamj.2016.23.210.8923
- (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/lassa/index.html
- Lassa Fever – Nigeria. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from http://www.who.int/csr/don/28-june-2017-lassa-fever-nigeria/en/
- Lassa fever claims 21 lives, affect 10 health workers. (2018, January 30). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/257110-lassa-fever-claims-21-lives-affect-10-health-workers.html
Chinwe is a Registered Nurse in the United States with a passion for health and fitness. She created her blog www.thatafrikannurse.com with the intention of sharing her passion for health and fitness, reach more people, as well as educate, and share knowledge from her professional journey as a new nurse.