With the celebration gone with its expenses, many wish that the good time remains and the memories lasting long. However, leftovers that could not be consumed will be thrown out and in most cases the animals in the field will gather for a feast. If only they would eat their food and do no harm, but no, sometimes they make their presence known.
In some parts of the country, methods of waste disposal and management are still inadequate as open dumping continues to be the practice. Consequently, this attracts animals, which visit the dump in search of food or just for fun. As a result, there could be transmission of diseases from such animals to humans when they get into close contact, causing conditions that could range from mild to fatal.
Lassa Fever is one of such conditions that can arise, worse still when there is an epidemic. The migratory nature of people during the holidays makes it possible for the condition to be carried from place to place.
Lassa Fever is a viral illness that is transmitted through animals (hence called a zoonotic disease), it occurs mainly in some parts of West Africa, including Nigeria. This follows the distribution of the vector, the multi-mammate rat in those regions. Lassa Fever was named after the town that had the first case. It is known to have an impact on the health of individuals affected and sometimes cases are underreported possibly due to the poor health-seeking behaviour of the people.
The host (the organism that harbours an infective agent) of the Lassa Fever virus is a rodent, the multi-mammate rat (Mastomys natalensis) that may have the virus in its urine or droppings for a long time which is a method of transmission and the multi-mammate rat has a high reproductive rate which favours its continuous existence. In regions where the host is found, they live in open fields near human dwellings and get closer especially in search of food.
The infected rodents excrete the virus through their urine and droppings and humans get infected with Lassa Fever virus by ingesting contaminated food or water, touching objects that are contaminated with the virus, direct contact with the infected waste from the host, from person to person through blood, tissues, bodily fluids. Also, the rodent is used for food in some areas and this increases risk of infection with the virus.
Lassa Fever may pose great challenge at the hospital as healthy individuals may become infected if adequate protective measures are not taken while treating an ill person infected with the virus.
Anyone can be infected with the Lassa Fever virus and is very important to note that close contact with an infected person increases your risk of getting infected. The incubation period (that is the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) of Lassa Fever ranges from about 6-21 days. This means that a person may be infected and spread the infection before showing symptoms of the disease. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild and resolve after that, while in other cases, it may progress to cause more severe condition. Some symptoms of Lassa Fever include feeling of unwell, general weakness, fever, headache muscle pain, chest pain, diarrhoea, sore throat, cough, facial swelling, difficulty in breathing, hearing loss, bleeding from mouth or nose, among others.
The diagnosis of Lassa Fever requires a high index of suspicion by all. It includes a thorough medical history and physical examination by a medical professionals qualified to do so. Once Lassa fever is suspected, the health care professionals providing care, alongside family and friends of the infected person apply adequate protective measures to prevent being infected. Also, the should be contact tracing of individuals who had been in close contact with the infected person so as curtail development of an epidemic or worsen any existing one as the case may be.
Management of Lassa Fever involves supportive care offered in the early stages like adequate hydration and providing symptomatic relief among many others. Medical treatment with an antiviral drug, ribavirin is also effective.
It’s worthy of note that reporting symptoms early on to the physician is very important.
Preventing Lassa Fever is very essential and involves a multi-sectorial approach, also including integrated efforts of individuals, families, communities and government. Prevention and control of the infection includes maintaining adequate food hygiene, hand hygiene, environmental hygiene; destruction of the rodents hosting the virus; wearing protective clothing (like face masks and hand gloves and many others) while taking care of an infected person.
Supporting research in developing vaccines that will protect against Lassa Fever is encouraged.
Health quote of the week:
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” –Magaret J. Wheatley