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Infectious Diseases

Lassa Fever: All You Need To Know

Lassa fever rat held to be tested

What is Lassa Fever?

Lassa Fever is an animal borne acute viral illness. It is a haemorrhagic fever which has become a major public health challenge in West African countries, being most prevalent in Nigeria. The multimammate rat and some other rodents mainly transmit the Lassa virus.

Epidemiology

An outbreak of the Lassa virus has recently occurred in Nigeria. About 81 cases already have been confirmed as at week 3 of January 2020. Nine states have recorded at least, one confirmed case across 32 Local government areas. Of those nine states, 89% of the cases come from Edo state, Ondo state and Ebonyi states, predominantly affecting people between ages 11 to 40.

How does it spread?

  1. Rodent
  2. By eating food exposed to the urine, faeces, blood or saliva of infected rodent
  3. Contact with objects, household items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
  4. Person-to-person transmission can also occur as a result of contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus and other body fluids of an infected person particularly, in hospital environment where infection prevention and control practices are not optimal.

Who is at risk of getting infected?

  1. Healthcare workers treating infected patients.
  2. Relatives in close contact with infected patients.
  3. People in direct contact with body fluids of infected animal

Signs and symptoms

The incubation period (time between an infection and appearance of symptoms of the disease) is 3 to 21 days So symptoms usually occur within that period.

Symptoms are quite similar to common febrile illnesses like malaria. It may fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases; unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices.

Early detection of an infection with the Lassa fever virus increases the chances of survival in patients. Treatment can therefore commence early enough before the disease progresses dangerously.

Precautions to take

  1. Do not leave cooking utensils and food out in the open. They infected animals can contaminate them.
  2. Healthcare workers treating infected individuals should wear adequate protective gear, dispose infected items and healthcare wastes properly, clean hospital environment regularly with appropriate material.
  3. Since the symptoms of Lassa fever are febrile in nature, therefore any fever that has not responded to 48 hours use of anti-malaria or antibiotics should raise an index of suspicion for Lassa fever!
  4. Test all suspected cases of Malaria using the Rapid Diagnostic Test. If the test comes out negative, suspect other causes of the febrile illness, Lassa fever inclusive.

What to do

Immediately report all suspected cases of Lassa fever to your Local Government Area Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer (DSNO). They are the first line to managing Lassa fever cases in Nigeria.

Reach them via the contacts below

NCDC Toll-Free Number:  0800-970000-10

SMS: 08099555577

Whatsapp: 07087110839

Twitter/Facebook: @NCDCgov

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