“Let’s know that life has no duplicate and do not be part of the death statistics,” writes Dr. Majolagbe Islamiat, a Senior Medical Officer with the Lagos State Ministry of Health in this piece on what our communities need to know about the Lassa fever ravaging some parts of Nigeria.
Lassa Fever is an animal-borne or zoonotic, acute viral illness. Its endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
The animal vector for Lassa virus, “multimammate rat” (Mastomys natalensis) is distributed throughout the region. The illness was discovered in 1969 and named after the town in Nigeria where the first case occurred.
As at 24th January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states in Nigeria by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In 2019, around 170 people died from the virus in Nigeria. Therefore, there is need for public awareness and enlightenment on this disease in order to reduce death rate.
The virus is stored in the multimammate rat (host or reservoir). Once infected, this rodent is able to excrete the virus in urine for an extended period of time. Mastomys readily colonize human homes and areas where food is stored.
Transmission of the virus to humans occurs by ingestion or inhalation particularly when Mastomys shed virus in urine and droppings and direct contact with these materials through touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food or exposure to open cuts or sores.
Person to person transmission may occur after exposure to the virus in the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of Lassa virus- infected individual. This is common in health care setting where proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is not available or not used.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Lassa Fever typically occur 1-3 weeks following contact with the virus. Mild symptoms include slight fever, general malaise and weakness and headache.
In 20% of cases, disease may progress to more serious symptoms such as hemorrhaging (in gums, eyes or nose), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back and abdomen and shock.
Taking blood sample of an infected person and testing in a high containment laboratory.
Ribavirin an antiviral drug has been used with success in Lassa Fever patients. It has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness.
Patients also receive supportive care by maintenance of fluid and electrolyte, monitoring vital signs and treatment of any complicating infections.
Primary transmission of Lassa virus from its host to humans can be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents.
Putting food away in rodent -roof containers (covered containers).
Keeping the home clean help to discourage rodents from entering homes.
Using rodents as food is not recommended.
Trapping in and around home can help reduce rodent’s population.
Avoiding blood and other bodily fluids when caring for sick relatives.
Following safe burial procedures.
Use of (PPE) such as masks, gloves, gowns and goggles particularly in Hospitals.
Regular and proper hand washing.
Educating people in high risk areas about ways to decrease rodent’s population in the home.
Increasing the availability of Ribavirin
Research is presently under way to develop a vaccine for Lassa Fever.
I hope we have gained additional knowledge on topic been x-rayed and would imbibe some preventions in our daily life. Let’s know that life has no duplicate and do not be part of the death statistics.
Till we meet again.
Dr Majoalgbe Islamiat, Senior Medical Officer 1, Lagos State Ministry of Health