Lassa fever Outbreak! What you should know to stay safe.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has said that Lassa fever has claimed 41 lives from 93 reported cases in 10 states of the country. According to Premium Times, this was disclosed by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole on Tuesday (January 12, 2016) at a joint ministerial news conference on the update of the outbreak of the disease. The Government has set up a four-man expert committee, chaired by Professor Michael Asuzu, to visit Kano, Niger and Bauchi, the three most endemic states.
WHAT IS LASSA FEVER?
Lassa fever is caused by a virus called Lassa Virus. The virus belongs to a group of viruses which cause hemorrhagic fevers such dengue fever, Ebola fever, yellow fever etc. The virus is also characterized by bleeding disorders and can progress to shock and death in many cases.
HOW IT SPREADS
Rats spreads through rats. Lassa fever lives and multiplies in a particular type of rat called the Natal multimammate mouse which is found in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus is contained in the urine and stool of rats. If the urine of the rats contaminates exposed food and humans the food, they can contract the disease. Breathing in the dried stool can also lead to being infected. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids-saliva, nasal discharge, blood of infected persons etc.
Lassa fever’s symptoms can be very tricky. It is usually similar to malaria and typhoid fever. However, these are some of the symptoms a victim experiences:
- Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- Yellowness of the eye balls
- As the disease progresses, some organs may fail
- Bleeding may occur into the skin or/and from gums, nose, into the eyes.
- Organ failure.
- About 1% of all infections end up in death.
HOW TO PREVENT LASSA FEVER
- Avoid Rats. Avoid contact with them; cover your food so they don’t come in contact with them. Do not eat rats.
- Isolate infected persons. Use of masks, gloves, gowns, goggles etc when attending to infected persons.
- Keep a clean house and environment.
All persons suspected of Lassa fever infection should be admitted to isolation facilities and their body fluids and excreta properly disposed of. Early supportive care with re-hydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.