Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa Virus, a member of the Arenavirus family. It is often fatal and occurs commonly in West Africa where the disease is endemic in the rodent population. It is a zoonosis from the rodent Mastomys natalensis

Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea most commonly affectedC.  Imported cases into UK and US have been reported. Both sexes are affected. It affects all age groups.

TRANSMISSION

Lassa fever infection can be transmitted through the following routes:

  • Mastomys once infected is asymptomatic but excretes the virus for its lifetime
  • Rodent urine or feces contaminates food and water leading to infections
  • Direct infection through eating or handling of infected rats
  • Aerosol inhalation
  • Person to person through blood and body fluids of infected person in hospital ( nosocomial) and at home
  • Sexual transmission has been reported

SYMPTOMS

The incubation period of Lassa fever is 5-21 days. The following symptoms may be experienced by someone suffering from Lassa fever:

  • Progressive fever. Degree of fever directly relates to prognosis
  • Malaise
  • Weakness
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms e.g abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dysphagia
  • Features of hepatitis e.g jaundice
  • Sore throat and pseudomembrane may develop
  • Conjunctival redness
  • Dizziness
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Facial and neck swelling
  • In occasional cases, there might be epistaxis, tinnitus, bleeding gum and venepuncture sites, maculopapular rashes

CONTROL

Lassa fever prevention, treatment and care is of public health important. The following measures can be adopted in the control of Lassa Fever:

  • Community hygiene
  • Food/ grains in rodent- proof containers
  • Garbage far from homes
  • Cleanliness in household
  • Rodent control e.g use of cats
  • Home care of febrile patients: avoid blood and body fluids.
  • Health care staff: standard infection prevention and control for all illnesses i.e face mask, hand wash protective gloves and goggles, aprons(PPEs) and general safe injection practices
  • Lassa fever vaccine is being developed.

LASSA FEVER  IN NIGERIA HELPLINES

The following hotlines have been designated by the Nigerian Government to assist her populace during an epidemic of Lassa fever. Feel free to contact them whenever necessary

  • 08093810105
  • 08163215251
  • 08031571667
  • 08135050005

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