Lassa fever is a dangerous disease caused by a Virus which is found in an infected multi-breasted rat (multimammate) named Mastomys Natalensis. Lassa fever is an infection that belongs to the group of viral haemorrhagic disease (Ebola, Yellow fever and Marburg). Recently, as part of the national awareness campaign on the disease, the Medical Centre, Federal University Oye-Ekiti organised a lecture to enlighten both staff and students on transmission and prevention of the disease.The lecture was delivered by Dr. E. Ojirigho at the University auditorium.
Dr. E. Ojirigho, a medical officer at the University Medical Centre, spoke on the topic, Menace of Lassa Fever. According to her, the disease is found mostly among people living in the West African sub-region. Lassa fever was first noticed in 1950 but not recognised till 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Lassa, a town in Borno State, Nigeria (from where the virus got its name). Outbreak of the disease has been observed in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Central African Republic. Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria as at January 14, 2016 has been reported in 17 states with the total death record of 53 which included a medical practitioner, Dr. Jamala, who died January 14 in Delta state.
The multimammate rat is a rodent found at home. The fever can be gotten in two forms: rodent to human transmission and human to human transmission. Rodent to human transmission occurs when humans eat food that is contaminated by the droppings of an infected rat, while human to human transmission occurs via direct contact with body fluids and secretions of an infected person. The virus can also be contacted through sexual transmission as the virus can be secreted in urine for 3 – 9 weeks and in semen for 3months. The virus can terminate life within 6 to 21 days.
Continuing, Dr. Ejirigho said the symptoms include: fever, sore throat, dry cough, headache, weakness, bloody diarrhoea, difficulty in swallowing, chest pain, bleeding from the nose, mouth, ears and eyes. The infection can lead to a severe situation where major organs of the body are infected.
However, Lassa fever can be treated depending on early report. She therefore advised that early report should be made to the hospital in case any of the above-listed symptoms occur. She stated that Lassa fever can be tested in two hospitals in Nigeria: Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
According to the medical practitioner, preventation of Lassa fever is one of the most effective and efficient methods of controlling and managing its infection as in the case of other hemorrhagic viral diseases both at community and individual levels.
The consumption control measures include:
i. to avoid eating rats,
ii. avoid eating garri soaked in water,
iii. to wash all fruits before eating,
iv. store food in rodent-proof containers and
v. dispose grains infected by rat droppings.
The sanitation control measures include:
i. to avoid eratic bush burning,
ii. proper waste disposal,
iii. avoid contact with rat droppings,
iv. avoid spreading of food items by road-side and around houses,
v. hand washing and use of sanitizers.
vi. Unprotected sex should also be avoided inorder to curb the spread of Lassa fever.
Medical practitioners should ensure they use personal protective clothing, gloves and face masks while dealing with cases of this nature. Hand washing should be practiced while contact with hospital bed covering, instruments and dressing should be avoided without personal protective clothing to reduce hospital acquired infection. As yet, there is no medical cure or control for the disease. Thus, the best way to prevent it for now is to stop the spread of rats, she advised.