Lassa fever has resurfaced again in Ogun State barely 4 months after Ogun state was declared Lassa fever-free. It has claimed the lives of two persons, a serving corp member who works as a morgue attendant and a nurse that attended to her while on admission.
To ease panic, and quench your thirst for knowledge here are 10 important facts to know about lassa fever;
1. Lassa fever is one of the types of haemorrhagic fevers that affect human beings and could lead to sudden death. Other haemorrhagic fevers are Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Dengue and Yellow fever.
2. Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria. It was first discovered in a town called Lassa in Borno state in 1969, hence it’s name.
3. It occurs commonly in West African countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Seirra Leone, Guinea and Ghana. It affects between 300 000 – 500 000 people every year causing about 5000 deaths.
4. It is caused by Lassa virus and spread to people via contact with urine or faeces of an infected rat or rodent. Spread can also occur via contact with blood or body fluids of infected individuals, even from hand shaking.
5. It takes about it 6 -21 days after contact with an infected person before symptoms begin to show.
6. Most infected people (about 80%) show no symptoms. However symptoms that may arise include; high fever, headache, generalised body pain, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, chest pain, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina and other body openings.
7. Lassa fever is difficult to differentiate from other viral haemorrhagic diseases like Ebola, Marbug and common febrile illnesses like malaria because they share similar symptoms.
8. In West Africa, where Lassa is most prevalent, it is difficult for doctors to diagnose due to the absence of proper equipment to perform tests. However, diagnosis of Lassa fever is via ELISA test. Other pointers include; low white blood cell count, low platelet count, elevated liver blood test level (AST).
9. Lassa fever can be effectively treated with Ribavirin, an anti viral agent. However, there is no vaccine against lassa fever yet.
10. Death from lassa fever is less than 1%, however during epidemic it can rise to 50% especially when infected individuals do not seek medical help on time.
Consequently, anyone who notices any of the above symptoms should report to the hospital for prompt treatment and quarantining so family members and friends are not infected.
Our hearts are with the family and loved ones of the victims and we hope Ogun state and Nigeria defeat this outbreak soon.
Please feel free to contact us for more information and share your questions with us.