WHAT IS IT?
It is an acute viral infection associated with persistent high fever caused by Lassa Virus.
WHERE IS IT FOUND?
It was discovered first in Lassa, Borno State Nigeria 1969. However, it can be found in other places, especially in West Africa, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
People become infected by eating infected bush rat or eating food contaminated with the rat excreta/urine deposited on surfaces such as floors, beds, household utensils or in food and water e.g grains spread out to dry along the road farmers. Person to person spread can occur by direct contact with the blood, saliva, sweat, urine, faeces or other body fluids of an infected person through broken skin or mucous membrane or inhalation of tiny particles of infectious materials (aerosols).
WHO CAN BE INFECTED?
All age groups. Persons of greater risk are those in areas of poor sanitation and health and health workers managing such cases.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
The illness usually starts with fever, general weakness and malaise. Other signs and symptoms are; headache, sore throat, pain behind the breastbone, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, abdominal pain and red spots. The symptoms take up to three weeks to manifest and are so mild as to be ignored in about 80% of cases. In severe cases, it may progress to swollen face, bleeding (from mouth, nose and vagina), gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure. Death may occur within two weeks in seriously sick patients. This is due to the failure of multiple organs.
HOW CAN LASSA FEVER BE PREVENTED?
- Avoid contact between rats and human beings.
- Keep your house and environment clean.
- Discard any food parts eaten by rats.
- Cover food and water properly.
- Cook all foods thoroughly.
- Block all rat hideouts.
- Stop bush burning.
- Do not spread food where rats can have access to.
As soon as you suspect Lassa fever or you have persistent fever not responding to the standard treatment for malaria and typhoid, report to the nearest health facility.
TREATMENT FOR SUSPECTED CASES
Early treatment with Oral Ribavirin is recommended. In severe infection, injection of Ribavirin is used. Barrier nursing is highly recommended.
The Lassa-transmitting rat
PLEASE PASS ON TO YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS!