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Lassa Fever in Nigeria -5 Quick Facts

There’s increasing concern in Nigeria about the spread of Lassa fever. The latest outbreak has killed at least 72 people and the disease has spread to 17 of the country’s 36 states. Here are some quick facts you should know about the virus.

What is lassa fever?
it is a virus similar to ebola virus as it causes hemorrhagic fever but not in too many people as about 80% of people who get infected wont show any symptoms at all. Unfortunately, about 1% of those who get infected will die from the infection.

How is it spread?
Its spread by rodents particularly rats and so wherever you have a rat infestation or rodent problem, for example, if refuse is not being collected or people live in dirty conditions then there is a chance of being exposed to the virus. Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever.

Where did it come from?
It has been in West Africa and has caused outbreaks over decades and so it’s nothing new. The real concern is that there are refuse not being collected and these are breeding grounds for the rat. This means that when you have an increase in rat population, you have an increased risk of getting infected.

What are the symptoms?
The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6-21 days. The onset of the disease, when it is symptomatic, is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop

Is there a cure?
The antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness. There is no evidence to support the role of ribavirin as post-exposure prophylactic treatment for Lassa fever.
There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever.People would have to avoiding being exposed to it in the first place to prevent infection and spread of the virus.Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering homes.

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