In the past few weeks, outbreaks of Lassa fever has been recorded by medical personnels in states like Ondo, Edo, FCT, Ebonyi, Nassarawa, Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba with a 22.8% case fatality rate. Recent occurrences have shown that Lassa fever is on the rise and rapidly spreading in Nigeria due to changes in climate.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness with 2-21 days incubation duration predominantly in West Africa. It is symptomatic and usually characterized by fever, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, abdominal and chest pains. Illness sometimes results to more severe symptoms including haemorrhaging, neurological problems, hearing loss, tremors and encephalitis.
The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, through contact with body fluids of a person infected with the Lassa virus, as well as contaminated bedding and clothing.
- The primary transmission of the Lassa virus from its host to humans can be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents, especially in regions where outbreaks occur.
- Putting food away in rodent-proof containers and keeping the home clean helps to discourage rodents from entering homes.
- Using these rodents as a food source is not recommended.
- Trapping in and around homes can help reduce rodent populations.
Since Lassa Fever presents no specific symptoms, clinical diagnosis is often difficult especially at the early onset of disease. Accurate diagnosis therefore can be assisted with differential laboratory testing, and clinical manifestations.
We should also ensure educating people in high-risk areas about ways to decrease rodent populations in their homes to aid control and prevention of Lassa fever. Likewise, early treatment of Lassa fever is very important for survival and requires specialized treatment as care must also be taken to avoid spread of the disease.