I thought I was done with Lassa fever, but no. Somebody had to pull me back, by carelessly allowing himself to get infected with Lassa fever. It has now spread to 6 States and still counting.
I got a text last week, from a responder in Lagos and I quote ” Doc, I heard over the radio, that lass-fever is back again in some States, does that mean I should start using my hand-sanitizers again?” I fired back – “did you stop before, do you need lassa fever to remind you of personal hygiene?”
Yes, lassa fever is back. No thanks to our negligence, and we know that lassa fever can only be killed with cleanliness. I thought it is said that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, and we are all very religious. So even from the spiritual angle, we should go clean.
I do not want to mention the States, where lassa fever had recently resurfaced. I want everybody to err on the side of caution. Assume that lassa fever is now in your State. Go back to the preventive-mode of 3 years ago. Assume the worst, and brush-up all you need to know about lassa-fever. Educate every member of your family. Lest any of them becomes the weak-link. In case you have forgotten, let me re-cap.
How do we define lassa fever?
- Lassa fever also known as Lassa Haemmorrhagic Fever(LHF), is a type of viral Haemmorrhagic fever caused by lassa virus. Many of those infected by the virus do not develop symptoms.
- Lassa fever was discovered in 1969 in Lassa town in now, present Plateau State, when two white missionary-nurses died in Nigeria.
- Lassa fever is distributed by “multimammate rat” – multiple-breasted-rat(Mastomys natalensis).
How is lassa fever transmitted?
- a) Transmission of lassa virus to humans most commonly occur through ingestion & inhalation.
- b) Through contamination of food that is taken raw _ garri(drinking), salad condiments which the rats excrete or urinate into. Or exposure of open cuts or sores to the viruses Which can also lead to infection.
- c) Mastomys rodents often live in, and around homes, and scavenge on left-over human food items, or poorly stored food – contamination is quite often.
d). Person-to-person transmission is common especially after exposure in the blood, tissue, secretions or excretion of lassa viruses in infected individuals. Also in health-care-settings, where protective measures are not adequately employed.
- e) Lassa virus may be spread through contaminated medical equipment, such as re-use of needles.
- f) All manicure, pedicure, barbing and shaving instruments must be properly sterilized.
Signs & symptoms of lassa-fever.
1) Incubation is 1 to 3 weeks after patient comes in contact with the virus.
2) Fever, weakness, headache, loss of appetite and nausea.
3) Cough, sore-ulcerated-throat, chest and abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
4) The patient is restless, confused, with conjuctivitis and has enlarged lymph nodes.
5) Bleeding gums, eyes or nose. Respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back and abdomen.
6) Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremours and encephalitis.
7) Death may occur within two weeks, after onset of symptoms, due to multiple-organ failure.
How do diagnose lassa fever?
- a) Through Enzyme-Linked-Immunosorbent-Serologic-Assays(ELISA) to detect Immunoglobulin M & G(IgM & IgG).
- b) Also Reverse-Transcription-Polymmerase-Chain-Reaction(RT – PCR), also used to detect antibodies and immunoglobulins.
- c) Electron Microscope(EM), serology and immunofluorescence are also employed.
How do we treat lassa fever?
1) There is no specific treatment for lassa fever, but symptomatic treatment is advised.
2) Anti-viral drugs like ribavirin has been found to be effective in management of lassa fever.
Prevention of lassa fever.
- Rigid isolation of any suspected case is essential, but the clinical spectrum is wide.
- All contacts should be traced, and paired sera for complement fixing antibodies should be sent to Nigerian Centre for Disease Control(CDC).
- Of course we should continue our hand washing, use of hand-sanitizers, and we should be very wary of what hands we shake.
- Meanwhile remain medically guided.
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