Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa. The illness was discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria, West Africa. The cause of the illness was found to be Lassa virus, named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases originated. The virus, a member of the virus family Arenaviridae, is a single stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic or animal borne.
In areas of Africa where the disease is endemic (that is, constantly present), Lassa fever is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. While Lassa fever is mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80% of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20% have a severe multisystem disease. Lassa fever is also associated with occasional epidemics, during which the case fatality rate can reach 50%
- Definition: Lassa fever is an acute viral disease caused by the Lassa virus which belongs to the arenavirus virus family.
- Origin: It was first discovered in Nigeria in 1969 after the unexpected death of two missionary nurses.
- Location: The disease is primarily predominant in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
- Animal host: The multimammate rodent species is the only known carrier of the virus, and it is mostly found in West Africa.
- Number of deaths: Approximately 5,000 deaths have occurred in the region because of the disease with approximately 100,000 to 300,000 infections.
- How humans are infected: This takes place through various means including contact with multimammate rodent excretions (urine and droppings) or food items containing them, inhaling particles in the air with these excretions and thirdly, the consumption of rodent meat.
- Symptoms: These usually become visible 1-3 weeks after infection. They include yellowing of eyes, vomiting, headaches, etc.
- Treatment: The disease is treatable with the antiviral drug, Ribavrin, which is considered most effective when given at the early stages of the disease infection.
- Prevention: Homes should be thoroughly fumigated and food items covered to prevent contamination. Eating of rodent meat (as bush meat) should also be prohibited.
Avoid contact between rats and human beings;
- Keep your house and Environment clean
- Cover all foods and water properly.
- Cook all foods thoroughly
- Store foodstuffs in rodent proof containers
- Block all rat hideouts
- If you suspect that rat has eaten any food, discard it