A lot is happening around us at the moment with respect to Lassa fever; hence this is an opportunity to find out what it is.
LASSA FEVER is an infective illness caused by the Lassa virus. It is actually a viral haemorrhagic illness because it causes bleeding (haemorrhage). It was named after the town LASSA in Borno state, Nigeria, where it was first discovered in 1969.
The host is a rodent, a multimammate rat, Mastomys natalensis.
Interestingly, the rodents do not show any symptoms, they only harbor it and pass it out in their secretions. Therefore, the virus infects humans.
How does one get infected?
- By contact with rats/ rats droppings:
When you eat food that is contaminated by rats/ rats droppings . For example, soaking contaminated gari (cassava flakes); eating left over food that has been perched on by rats; drinking with a glass contaminated by rats droppings.
- Direct contact with an infected person:
You could get infected by coming in contact with the body fluids of infected individuals.
- A pregnant woman can pass it on to the fetus (baby).
How do I know that someone has Lassa fever?
The fact is that it may not be obvious initially that someone has Lassa fever because the initial symptoms are similar to those of malaria, or typhoid fever.
However, the symptoms include:
- Generalised body weakness/ fatigue
- Sore throat
- Nausea and / or vomiting
- Joint pains
- Abdominal pain
An infected person would likely not respond to treatment for malaria or typhoid, which is what usually raises the suspicion for lassa fever.
If treatment is not commenced early,the symptoms would typically worsen until the person starts bleeding from puncture sites, from orifices such as the ears, nose, anus, with an eventual shut down of some vital organs (the kidneys, liver). At this stage,the prognosis (outcome) is poor.
How do I prevent this infective illness?
This involves simple, but sometimes ignored precautions.
- Store your food items in air- tight containers
- Discard left over food
- Environmental sanitation
- Heat up your food before consumption (the virus is denatured by heat )
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid direct contact with infected persons
Do not hesitate to visit a health facility if you have an ‘unrelenting’ fever. You may just be preventing another death from Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is preventable. Do not be a victim.
Got questions? Consult DoctorKK right here.