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Thursday, 1 February 2018

What you should know about Lassa fever; causes & prevention

A disease emanating from a little town in Nigeria many years ago (1969) has over the decades become a very huge health issue. The disease was discovered when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria. Thus the virus is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred. It has been here a number of times, and suddenly it is here again with us in Nigeria. Lassa fever is an acute contagious viral disease of central western Africa, characterised by fever and inflammation and muscular pains and difficulty swallowing.



It is very important therefore that you know what precautionary measures to take in order to stay safe and secure – you and your entire family, from the effects of the disease which is mainly contracted through coming in contact with infected rodents, etc.
Following the recent outbreak, the federal government through the Ministry of Health has issued to the general public a Lassa fever Advisory.

The release states that Lassa fever is a viral infection caused by the Lassa fever virus. The virus is primarily transmitted to humans via contact with excreta from rats. The disease occurs throughout the year, but more cases are recorded during the dry season, experts say.

Mode of spread

• Direct contact with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats
• Eating food or drinking water contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats
• From person-to-person through contact with blood, urine, saliva, throat secretion or semen of an infected person
• Touching of floors, bedding and household materials contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of rats or an infected person

People most at risk of contracting the disease include the following:

• People of all age groups who come in contact with the urine, faeces, saliva or blood of rats
• People living in dirty environments
• Family members who are taking care of persons infected with Lassa fever
• Health workers, including;
·         Doctors, nurses or other health workers providing direct patient care, without universal precautions
·         Hospital staff who clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces, materials and supplies
·         Laboratory staff who handle blood samples from suspected Lassa fever cases
·         Medical or support staff who prepare or handle dead bodies of Lassa fever patients without appropriate precautions

Rats, major vectors and transmitters of the deadly Lassa fever virus

Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever

Symptoms appear six to 21 days after contact with the Lassa fever virus. The symptoms of the disease usually start with a fever and general body weakness. Other symptoms include: High fever (38.5oC or above), sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, back pain, cough, chest pain, abdominal pain, restlessness, swelling of the face, bleeding through body openings (nose, ears, eyes, mouth, etc.)

Nb: if you experience any of these symptoms, report immediately to the nearest health centre/hospital. The actions expected from a healthcare worker would be to test for malaria and other common causes of fever. If these tests are negative, Lassa fever should be considered.

How to prevention contracting Lassa fever

• Avoid all contact with rats (dead or alive)
• Keep the house and surrounding clean always. Dirt attracts rats
• Block all holes around the house
• Clear all bushes around the house to avoid breeding sites for rats
• Put refuse into covered dustbins and dispose appropriately
• Set traps for rats around the house to eliminate rats.
• Carry out periodic fumigation of the surrounding.
• Store food items in rat-proof and covered containers.
• Cover all cooked food and water to prevent contamination by urine, faeces, saliva or blood of rats.
• Wash fruits and vegetables with clean water before eating.
• Avoid spreading food items along roadsides and open spaces to avoid rat infestation.
• When caring for loved ones who are suspected or confirmed to have Lassa fever, use gloves and protected gowns.
• Patients who die from Lassa fever must have safe burial. This is important to prevent further transmission in the community.

Treatment

Lassa fever can be treated. Early presentation to a healthcare facility increases the chances of survival.

Contacts:

NCDC toll-free number: 0800-970000-10; SMS: 08099555577; Whatsapp: 07087110839; Twitter/Facebook: @NCDC.gov

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