WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT LASSA FEVER
WHAT IS LASSA FEVER?
It is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Arenavirus Lassa. Transmitted from rodents to humans, then from human to other humans.
Lassa was discovered in Nigeria, 1969 and it is found in some other West African countries, especially during the early dry season. Affects all age groups and both sexes.
HOW DOES INFECTION OCCUR?
Rodent to human: When you eat food contaminated by infected rodent excreta (food spread to dry on roads, sheds with stored food items etc), or if you eat the rat. Particles can also be released into the air, which can result in infection if inhaled.
Human to human: Infection can occur following direct contact with body fluids (blood, secretions), tissues, or faeces of infected humans. Also, you can get infected if you inhale the virus released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
HOW IS DIAGNOSIS MADE?
Diagnosis of Lassa fever can only be confirmed by a laboratory test that can isolate the virus from the blood. However, being able to identify the symptoms can help to prevent death, if medical care is sought early enough.
The classical symptoms of the infection are; bleeding from any orifice (mouth, nose, anus, ears and vagina), swelling of the face, and severe body weakness or an altered level of consciousness. These, however, occur in only a few infected people.
- Most Lassa fever infections go unnoticed, so you might feel no symptoms. However, some people might begin to manifest some symptoms within the subsequent three weeks.
- Fever, headaches, tiredness and general feeling of being unwell, are the commonest symptoms
- Abdominal discomfort, vomiting and passage of watery stool can also be experienced.
- Cough, chest pain, sore throat, and catarrh. In fact, it might initially seem like a flu or common cold.
- A handful of people can become permanently deaf.
HOW TO PREVENT INFECTION
- Avoiding eating rodents
- Avoid drying of food items on areas rodents can easily reach
- Store food properly
- Maintain a clean environment
- Kill the rodents inside your home and safely dispose their carcasses
- Avoid rodents as a food source
- Wash your hand properly at intervals, especially after taking care of the sick.