Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa.It was first described in the 1950s but identified in the late 1960s after it killed two nuns in the Northern part of Nigeria. About 80% of people infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms and 1 in 5 infection results in severe disease when organs such as the kidneys, liver and spleen are affected. Below are 21 facts you should know about Lassa fever.
1. Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness of 2–21 days duration that mainly occurs in West Africa.
2. Lassa fever was first discovered in a village called Lassa in Borno State of Nigeria in 1969.
3. Endemic regions are Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Benin and Ghana.
4. About 300,000 new cases of Lassa fever occur every year in West Africa causing about 5,000 deaths yearly.
5. The reservoir or host of Lassa virus is a rodent known as the multimammate rat, a common house rat with a very high reproductive rate.
6. Once infected this rodent is able to excrete the virus in urine for an extended period of time, probably for the rest of its life.
7. The infection is usually transmitted from rodents to humans through the urine and faeces of infected rodents by contact with it and also in some places where rodents are eaten.
8. From person to person transmission through the direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces or other bodily secretion of a person infected with Lassa fever.
9. It can also be contacted through airborne especially when droppings are displaced into the air by the action of sweeping and then inhaled.
10. It can also be contacted in health facilities like the hospitals through the use of infected needles and instrument and in the laboratories during testing.
11. Clinical diagnosis of Lassa fever is usually difficult to make because symptoms vary and are non-specific.
12. Signs and symptoms take 1-3 weeks after contact with the virus.
13. Lassa fever is usually characterized with fever and at the later days with bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or the gastrointestinal tract leading to low blood pressure and its concomitant effects.
14. Lassa fever can lead to hearing loss.
15. Early symptomatic treatment and rehydration improves survival rates.
16. The disease if left untreated, leads to multi-organ failure and ultimately death.
17. Only 1% of all Lassa virus infection results in death.
18. Presently, there is no known vaccine for Lassa fever.
19. Ribavarin, an anti viral drug, is the only known drug in the treatment of Lassa fever and it is most effective when used in the early stage of the disease.
20. Avoid or Eradicate rodents from your house and environment. Make sure you always observe proper hygienic methods. Cover all food stuffs and drinks properly and make
sure that your hands are always kept clean.
21. There is only one specialist centre in Nigeria for the diagnosis and treatment of Lassa fever and it is located in Edo State.