Lassa Fever: Things We Need to Know

According to the World Health Organization WHO, Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. Similar to Ebola, clinical cases of the disease had been known for over a decade, but had not been connected with a viral pathogen. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. Lassa fever mostly affects people in the western part of Africa. Countries like Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic have had outbreaks of Lassa fever.

Lassa fever in Nigeria

Nigeria has been having different cases of Lassa fever out breaks; the first case of the current outbreak was reported in November 2015 in Bauchi state. The virus has since spread from Port-Harcourt, the Rivers state capital to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, Delta state, Edo and 12 other states.

The map above shows the states affected by the Lassa fever outbreak. 62 local government areas are affected and 212 suspected cases within 9 weeks in the country. According to the minister of health, the death toll is at 63 as at January 24, 2016.  

How Lassa Fever Can be Contacted

The Lassa fever virus can be contacted by coming in contact with an infected rat or inhalation of air contaminated with rat excretions, like other hemorrhagic feversLassa fever can betransmitted directly from one human to another when a person comes into contact with virus in the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of an individual infected with the Lassa virus.

Symptoms of Lassa fever

Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa fever virus with an incubation period of 6-21 days. About 80% of human infections are asymptomatic; the remaining cases have severe multi-system disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and kidneys. The beginning on the sickness is usually gradual with the following symptoms;

  • Fever
  • General weakness
  • Head aches
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pains
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Bleeding ( Nose, mouth, vagina, gastrointestinal track)
  • Low blood pressure

Preventive Measures

There is no vaccine for the prevention of Lassa fever therefore preventive measures need to be taken to prevent the contact and spread of the virus. Health workers should be fully kitted before attending to any patient for safety reasons. Measure should be taken to keep Mastomys rodent away from homes and eateries. People are advised to keep a high level of personal hygiene. Keep food away in rodent proof containers and prevent them from entering the house.

Lassa Fever Treatment Centers in Nigeria

Any persons showing symptoms of Lassa fever should show up at any of the treatment centers or hospitals across the country. Some of the treatment centers are listed below.

  1. National Center for disease control Asokoro, Abuja.
  2. University Collage Hospital Ibadan
  3. Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH)
  4. Amino Kano Teaching Hospital Kano
  5. University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital
  6. Irrua Hospital Edo