Lassa fever is said to be an acute viral Haemorrhegic disease caused by Lassa virus. The Lassa virus was first identified in the 1950s although it was not fully recognized until 1969. This deadly virus is a single stranded RNA virus belonging to the Arenaviridae virus family.
It is carried and transmitted by infected Mastomy rats which we all know is very numerous in Nigeria. Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and cases are often recorded all year round.
Due to the alarming number of rodents in the country, the Lassa fever virus can spread at an alarming rate hence the need to protect ourselves against it. So far, as at 24th January 2020, about 195 cases of Lassa fever have been identified in about 11 states in Nigeria and only about 29 deaths.
The Nigeria center for disease control (NCDC) have reported that about 89% of the Lassa fever cause are from Ondo, Edo, and Ebonyi states. They also said that the increase of the spread of the virus is due to ecological factor.
In response to this, NCDE has set up National Emergency operation centers to coordinate the response activities to the deadly virus. It also reports that over the last few weeks, NCDC have deployed rapid responses team to support 5 of the most affected states.
Part of the emergency operation council team includes representatives from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environments, World Health Organization, UNICEF, US center for disease control and other partners.
The NCDC further stated that team will further increase their community engagement activities to ensure that Nigerians aware of the risk of Lassa fever and measures to protect themselves. They also declared their support to treatment centers across the country for effective management of Lassa fever cases.
Currently, it is reported by the NCDC that cases of Lassa fever have greatly declined from 23.4% in 2019 to about 14.8% this year. And also Nigeria is currently contributing to research and other activities for the development of a Lassa fever vaccine.
Enugu has confirmed a case of Lassa fever involving a 75 year old womanat the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital with symptoms of malaria.
Within few days, she started to vomite blood. A sample was taken to a virology centre at Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, and it was confirmed to be positive of Lassa fever.
MODE OF TRANSMISSION.
The Lassa virus is transmitted through contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine, feces, saliva or blood of infected Mastomy rats. It can also be transmitted from an infected person to another through contact to urine, blood, saliva, bodily fluids, and feces.
Symptoms of Lassa fever are often varied and non-specific hence making diagnosis difficult especially at an early stage. Differentiating Lassa fever from other fever inducing illnesses like Malaria, Shigellosis, Typhoid and yellow fever are often difficult.
The symptom of Lassa fever is usually gradual start from fever, general weakness. And after a few days, it moves up to headaches, sour throats, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and abdominal pain may include as well as fluids in the lung cavity, swelling, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina as well as low blood pressure in very severe cases. The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 2-21 days.
It can become fetal within 14 days in severe cases and it is especially severe for pregnant women who are around 7,8 to 9 months in. in more than 80% of fatal cases of Lassa fever it is often with pregnant women. Other severe stage symptoms may include disorientation, tremor, shock, seizures as well as coma.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL.
The major way to prevent Lassa fever is to practice good hygiene. This way, rodents will not enter your home as they often like dirty places.
Oher measures like storing grains, dry fish and other foodstuffs in a rodent free environment, disposing of your domestic waste properly and in some cases, keeping cats.
Avoid contact with the urine, blood, saliva as well as any bodily fluid of feces of an infected person.
Always apply standard infection prevention and control precaution when handling and infected person especially for health care personnel’s. this includes basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of protective equipment’s, save injection practice as well as safe burial practice for death patients.
Go for proper testing when sick in other to identify the cause of the illness.
There is currently no approved vaccine for Lassa fever but a lot of them are in development so our best option is to follow the preventives measures listed above and above all else, pray.