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Lassa fever in Nigeria – 8 things you need to know

“Since the beginning of 2018, Nigeria has recorded 16 deaths from 61 confirmed cases of Lassa fever across the country.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as at January 21, ten out of the 61 confirmed cases were health care workers from four states Ebonyi- 7 , Nasarawa -1, Kogi- 1 and Benue -1 out of which four are now deceased.” – Premium Times.

Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents. It is incurable and can be prevented through constant personal, environmental hygiene and proper sanitation. Most times, health workers are prone to contracting this disease from patients while treating them, so it is pertinent that hospitals provide adequate infection control measures to avoid secondary transmission(s) and victims.

These are 8 main things to know about Lassa fever:

  1.   It first occurred in 1969 and was named after the town in which it was discovered. This town is in Borno state, Nigeria and two missionary nurses died at the time of its initial discovery.
  2.   Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness duration that occurs mainly in West Africa and is a member of theArenaviridaevirus family.
  3.   It is spread through the Mastomys rodent and is a zoonotic disease. Mastomys rats infected with Lassa virus do not become ill. However, they can shed the virus in their urine and faeces.
  4.  Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of an infected person.
  5.   The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6-21 days. Symptoms are quite similar to malaria symptoms and ranges from high fever, vomiting, back pain, to bleeding. In severe cases, victims usually die within 14 days of disease onset.
  6.   About 80% of people who become infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms but the other 20% of the time symptoms are gruesome.
  7.  25% of Lassa fever survivors go deaf. In half of these cases, hearing returns partially after 1-3 months.
  8.  Lassa fever is only curable if administered within the first 6 days after disease onset. Otherwise, there is no cure for it. The only available drug for its cure is Ribavirin.
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