Lassa Fever! Another Ebola?

NOTE: Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported .

Lassa fever seems to be succeeding the dreaded Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, which had a good number of families in Nigeria, bereaved of their cherished ones. The  recent outbreak in Nigeria with about 81 cases and 35 deaths,  is reported dangerous to a high degree.  This is not time to fold our one’s arms and say: ‘It is not my portion’! Well, yes…it is nobody’s portion, including the people that just got killed as a result of the fever. The needful thing to do right now is not just to confess ‘positively’, but to avoid whatever would spread this outbreak so that our families are saved.

As reported by The Guardian of January 9 2015, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole  gave further updates on the ailment at a briefing at Abuja on January 8, 2016 attended by key stakeholders, including officials for United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

According to the report, the Minister said hat Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo were the affected states. He stated that the ministry released adequate quantities of ribavirin, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever to all the affected states for prompt and adequate treatment of cases.

Key facts

  • About 80% of people who become infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms.
  • The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.
  • Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevent and control measures.
  • Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin (where it was diagnosed for the first time in November 2014), Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and parts of Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.
  • The overall case-fatality rate is 1%. Observed case-fatality rate among patients hospitalized with severe cases of Lassa fever is 15%.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.
  • Detection of the disease in affected patients has been difficults


                 Symptoms of Lassa fever

  • Fever, general weakness, and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop. Protein may be noted in the urine. Shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation, and coma may be seen in the later stages. Deafness occurs in 25% of patients who survive the disease. In half of these cases, hearing returns partially after 1-3 months. Transient hair loss and gait disturbance may occur during recovery.
  • Death usually occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases. The disease is especially severe late in pregnancy, with maternal death and/or fetal loss occurring in greater than 80% of cases during the third trimester.

As a summary, citizens of Nigeria are advised to adhere to the following:

  1. Good hygiene
  2. Avoid contact with rodents/rats, as well as food/objects contaminated with rats’ secretions/excretions.
  3. Avoid drying food in the open and along the roadside.
  4. Cover all food to prevent rodents’ contamination
  5. Family members and health care workers are advised to always be careful and avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons with symptoms similar to those listed for Lassa Fever and any such patients should be taken to nearest health facility.

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