What is Lassa Fever Virus
Lassa fever virus is an animal-borne or zoonotic, acute viral illness which was first discovered in the year 1969. The Lassa fever virus killed 2 missionary nurses in Nigeria in year 1969 and that was when the virus was named after the town in Nigeria where this cases occurred.
Lassa fever virus has symptoms similar to that of the Ebola virus. It is endemic in much of West Africa and occurs during the period from December to March.
Lassa Fever Outbreak
Outbreak of lassa fever Virus in Nigeria and other countires
The lassa fever virus is endemic in rodents population in parts of West Africa and the country `Nigeria` bears the most burden of the lassa fever illness and case fatalities. However several imported cases have been reported in some other parts of the world and there are growing concerns of the potentials of Lassa fever Virus as a biological weapon.
It is disheartening for an emerging infectious disease as Lassa fever, to linger for more than 47 years but surge in incidence in a country such as Nigeria, a country endowed with enough human and natural resources.
Recently, Lassa fever is also known to be endemic in Togo, Ghana, Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone. And it probably exists in other West African countries as well.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa Fever Virus
Someone suffering from Lassa fever may have the following symptoms after a few days:
Seizures, nausea, deafness, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina, miscarriage in late pregnancy, often in the third trimester Or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop and even death.
Death may even occur within two weeks after symptom onset due to multi-organ failure.
The common symptoms of Lassa fever is deafness. Various degrees of deafness occurs in approximately one-third of infected people, and in many cases hearing loss is permanent. It can develop from both mild and serious cases and cannot even be prevented by drug treatment.
Treatment of the Lassa Fever Virus
An antiviral drug known as Ribavirin has been used with success in Lassa Fever patients. This has shown to be most effevtive when given early in the course of infection.
Patients should receive supportive care consisting of electrolyte balance and maintenance of appropriate fluid, blood pressure and oxygenation, as well as treatment of any other complicating infections.
Lassa fever is difficult to distinguish from other viral haemorrhagic fevers, especially early in the course of infection such as Ebola virus disease, malaria, shigellosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and other diseases that may cause fever.
Lassa Fever Virus Prevention
Lassa fever is prevented in any environment by promoting good `community hygiene` to create uncomfortable environment for rodents.
Lassa fever virus is transferred from its host to humans, therefore it can be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents, especially in the geographic regions where outbreaks occur. Ensure you don`t use these rodents as a food source.
Other effective measures you can take include disposing of garbage properly, storing foodstuffs or grains in rodent-proof containers, far from the home. Mastomys rats are so abundant in endemic areas, this will make eliminating them from the environment so difficult, therefore use different rat poisoning and traps always.
While caring for a sick patients with this disease, avoid further transmission of the Lassa fever disease by taking preventive precautions against contact with patient secretions (called VHF isolation precautions or barrier nursing methods). Such precautions include using protective materials or clothing, such as gloves, masks, goggles, gowns, etc. Also using infection control measures, such as isolating infected patients from contact with unprotected persons until the disease has run its course and complete equipment sterilization.
Furthermore, educate people in high-risk areas like in Nigeria, about ways to decrease rodent populations in their homes. This will help aid in the control and prevention of Lassa fever. Research is presently under way to discover a vaccine for Lassa fever.
Conclusion on Lassa Fever Virus
People living in areas of West Africa are most at risk of the Lassa fever virus and also humans exposed to the rat that transmits the infection also have a higher risk of being exposed to the Lassa fever.
The virus is fatal for only about 1% of infected people. The incubation period of this disease/virus ranges from 2 to 21 days. The onset of this disease when it is symptomatic is usually gradual, starting with general weakness, fever and even malaise.
Person to person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the health care settings and in absence of adequate infection prevention control measures.
Early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival for patients with Lassa fever. There is still a need for a more proactive measures towards the eradication of this illness both at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of health care.
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